Tuesday, June 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: One interesting, modestly positive, note deeper in the budget


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

From the Trib story on Abbott signing the budget:
Other portions of the budget didn’t see as much growth. The $84 billion for health and human services programs is up just 1% from the last two-year cycle, and Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is facing a $900 million cut.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Hmm....

What's interesting about this is, for as much of an insaneo spending spree as they went on over education, there was no equivalent on health care.

From a macroeconomic perspective, if the state were to get serious about health care and Medicaid costs, conceivably we could absorb a rather large increase in education spending.  That's not to say that the other problems in the system would go away.  But it is to say the impact on economic growth could be contained.

Of course, all of this would require several years to play out.

Bottom Line: Probably won't amount to much, but it is a situation worth keeping an eye on....

Monday, June 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: Having lawlessly expanded executive power, Abbott refuses to exercise valid authority


"Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—"
Revelation 3:17

LOL, of course:
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s roughly $250 billion budget Saturday, bringing a session-long effort to address the Legislature’s top priorities — school funding and property taxes — to a close.

A spokesman for Abbott confirmed that the governor signed the budget without issuing a single line-item veto, a mechanism that allows him to shrink the budget where he sees fit.

The 2020-21 budget, which state lawmakers approved in May, includes a significant boost in spending compared with two years ago. Lawmakers had billions of dollars more to spend thanks to a positive economic forecast and revised revenue estimates from oil and natural gas production taxes. Total spending is up 16% from the budget the Legislature approved in 2017.

Much of that extra money went to state leadership’s two legislative priorities for 2019. Abbott has already approved a $11.6 billion school finance package that doled out $6.5 billion in new spending for schools and $5.1 billion to buy down Texans’ property tax bills. In total, the state budget spends $94.5 billion on education, which includes funding for public schools and universities. Not including tax break funds, the Legislative Budget Board calculates that the education portion of the budget grew 10%.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Last Thursday, Abbott invented authority out of thin air to preserve an industry cartel.  On Sunday, he couldn't find a single place to use his constitutional authority on behalf of taxpayers.  Got it.

Bottom Line: Priorities people....

Friday, June 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: Regulated Incumbent Industry SPEWS SEWAGE over Liberty and Rule of Law


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

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776)

We said our piece yesterday about Abbott's move on the plumbers board.  He needs to get sued.  In case that situation weren't sufficiently depressing, however, we made the mistake of attending this morning's victory lap at the Capitol.

Ayn Rand couldn't have scripted it better.

Speakers listed litany of alleged perils to public "health and safety" from plumbing without papers.  Apparently, a dysfunctional state agency is the only thing standing between Texans and exploding water heaters.  Likewise, according to speakers, that same dysfunctional state agency are the only ones qualified to supervise gas lines.

The speakers seemed hyperbolic.

Also, Soviet style signs:



And this nonsense:


Moving forward, their goal is to maintain the plumbing board as a stand alone agency (with a bigger budget, natch).

Regulatory capture much?!?

Bottom Line: There are few things in life more irritating that when people claim to be protecting the public while they're, in reality, protecting themselves....

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Abbott just established an INSANELY DANGEROUS precedent


"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."
James 1:14

Bad...REALLY bad:
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on August 23, 2017, as subsequently amended on August 26, August 27, August 28, and September 14, 2017, certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for certain counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, on September 20, 2017, and in each subsequent month effective through today, I issued proclamations renewing the disaster declaration; and

WHEREAS, recovery from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey continues for millions of Texans living in no fewer than sixty counties across the state; and

WHEREAS, the magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including through the disaster aid bill signed by President Donald J. Trump on June 6, 2019; and

WHEREAS, a qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects; and

WHEREAS, Texas must also be ready for future disasters, by building sound infrastructure that can withstand major weather or other events and by ensuring that qualified workers stand ready to rebuild, and June 1, 2019, marked the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season; and

WHEREAS, the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, whose mission is “to protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” will continue to play an essential role in all these efforts by ensuring that the plumbers who rebuild Texas and prepare for future disasters do so in a manner that will safeguard public health, safety, and property; and

WHEREAS, Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code provides that the Board is to be abolished on September 1, 2019, along with expiration of the Plumbing License Law, Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1301, because they were not continued in existence by the 86th Legislature pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act, Texas Government Code, Chapter 325; and

WHEREAS, abolition of the Board would threaten recovery efforts, diminish hurricane preparedness, and heighten the dangers I am responsible for meeting under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Texas Government Code, Chapter 418; and

WHEREAS, in Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code, the legislature has empowered the governor to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business . . . if strict compliance with the provisions . . . would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster”; and

WHEREAS, the 86th Legislature further expanded the governor’s authority in Senate Bill 285 by enacting Section 418.128(b) of the Texas Government Code, effective September 1, 2019, pursuant to which, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, the governor may, by executive order, take any action necessary to ensure each state agency . . . is able to respond to a hurricane”; and

WHEREAS, to fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans;

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Texas Constitution and the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, I do hereby suspend Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code to prevent the imminent abolition of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and expiration of the Plumbing License Law on September 1, 2019, and to delay that abolition and expiration until disaster needs subside or the 87th legislature addresses the matter. To facilitate the legislature’s consideration of the issue, this suspension shall have the force and effect of law until May 31, 2021.

This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.

Given under my hand this the 13th day of June, 2019.



GREG ABBOTT Governor
This is madness.

He's using Hurricane Harvey as an excuse to extend an unrelated state agency.  Two years after the storm.  We've seen some shoehorns in our life, but none that big.

Lunacy.

That being said, it'll be interesting to see how the legislature reacts.  Extending the plumbers board is a function of the legislature, NOT the executive branch.  If the legislature has any self respect (*), they ought to both raise hell AND make the Governor pay.

Bottom Line: It does not take a genius to see how this goes horribly, horribly wrong....

-------

* -- Yeah, we know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#TXLEGE: If you still need proof this Chick-fil-a bill was a joke


"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

LOL, from the Human Rights Campaign:
With the leadership of the LGBTQ Caucus, the Texas legislative session concluded with only one anti-LGBTQ bill, SB 1978, being passed into law. SB 1978 was originally filed as a broad, sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. However, after concerns raised by the LGBTQ Caucus, advocates and other organizations, significant changes were made to the bill. HRC opposed SB 1978, but was pleased that it passed in a form which causes no significant legal harm to the LGBTQ community.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
"No significant legal harm the the LGBTQ community" is lawyer-speak for "does nothing."

This is the substantive equivalent of the SCOTUS Colorado cake-baker case: The legislature addressed the specific actions of the San Antonio city council, but did nothing to address any other sort of abuse that falls outside of that narrow set of circumstances.

Good luck trying to live out your Faith in all the other areas of life.

But at least they were able to convince Fox News they accomplished something (and that's all that really matters).

Bottom Line: Nothing of substance was accomplished, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either a liar or a chump....

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Governor FoxNews successfully PROPAGANDIZES multiple GULLIBLE, LAZY Conservative Media Outlets


"The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps."
Proverbs 14:15

[Note: Leon Wolf at The Blaze published this godawful hot-mess on the exact same subject while we were writing a longer response to the Daily Wire.  For simplicity's sake, we're going to stick with responding to the Daily Wire.  But, if anything, this blog post applies even more to the Blaze (who really SHOULD know better) than the Daily Wire.]

There was a Daily Wire piece going around yesterday that's almost impossible to read if you were paying attention to this past legislative session.  Written by Asche Schow, the article strings together a few Abbott tweets into an undeserved narrative about Abbott's alleged conservatism.  If you want to understand how Abbott ROUTINELY spins national conservative media, yesterday's Daily Wire item is a great place to start.

To begin, Schow writes:
Gov. Greg Abbot (R-TX) had a stellar opening week of June. With few exceptions, the governor lived up to his state’s reputation for defending freedom.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Yak.

Schow continues:
In a series of tweets last week that ended up going viral, Abbott announced that he had signed legislation that would protect free speech rights on college campuses, ban red light cameras, and allow people to have beer delivered to their homes.
In fairness to Schow, all of Abbott's actions look good in isolation.  That's why Abbott spins them that way.  But all lack context.

-------

Campus Speech:

About SB 18, Schow writes:
On June 9, Abbott posted another video of himself signing a law — this time in an effort to protect the First Amendment on college campuses.

“Some colleges are banning free speech on college campuses,” Abbott said in the video. “Well, no more because I’m about to sign a law that protects free speech on college campuses in Texas.”

“Shouldn’t have to do it,” he added after signing the bill. “The First Amendment guarantees it. Now, it’s law in Texas.”
Sounds great...until you realize:
  1. The Governor of Texas appoints University Boards of Regents.
  2. Boards of Regents routinely turn a blind eye to speech related abuses.
  3. Similarly, Boards of Regents routinely ignore laws passed by the legislature.
  4. The Texas Senate just rubber stamped all of Abbott's Regent nominees.
Thus, while SB 18 is a (modestly) welcome development, nobody should be under any illusions about the future of higher ed. in Texas.

Which is a shame, because if Abbott were serious about it (and, thus, the Boards of Regents were were serious about it), we could have addressed this issue four years ago.

But how would that help Abbott get puff pieces written about him in the Daily Wire?!?

-------

Beer to Go:

Schow also writes:
Two days later, Abbott posted another tweet, this time of him signing a law that would allow Texas citizens to “order beer and wine from retailers to be delivered to your home.” “Enjoy responsibly,” he added.
Except that Texas is, literally, the last state in the country to allow this.

Maybe not the best example of our Governor "defending freedom?!?"

-------

"Defending Freedom" in general:

In fairness to Schow, she does knock Abbott over the smoking age fiasco:
On Friday, Abbott signed a bill that increases the purchase age of tobacco products — including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes — from 18 to 21. Those in the military are exempted from the law. As CBS Austin reported, supporters of the bill said it would “save lives because 95 percent of smokers start before age 21, and three fourths of adult smokers try their first cigarette before their 18th birthday.”

So now those statistics will just shift until 21. Supporters also failed to note that one does not have to personally purchase cigarettes in order to get their hands on one before they are legally able to purchase.
So that's good.  It certainly illustrates how all is not as it seems in the Texas Legislature.  But still....

Schow's biggest problem is less what she says (ie. sins of commission) and more what she ignores (ie. sins of omission).  Perhaps that's not surprising coming from an author who, according to her own bio, lives in Virginia.  Still, it's unhelpful.

By Schow's own standard, do any of the following sound like they're "defending freedom?!?"

  • Creating a "mental health consortium" (through lawless means) in the name of "school safety."  At best, this boondoggle will subsidize shoving more Addreall type drugs down children's throats.  At worst, God only knows the unintended consequences....
  • Raising taxes on ordinary Texans to finance abatements for those who can afford lobbyists.
    • Note for #TXLEGE nerds: Chapter 312 and 313 renewal.
  • Not a DAMN THING on Guns.
In that context, does it sound like our Governor is "defending freedom?!?"

-------

Why this matters:

Like it or not, outlets like Fox News, the Daily Wire, and the Blaze have far more influence over Texas voters than all state level outlets combined.

When they unquestioningly regurgitate Greg Abbott's propaganda, it enables all sorts of other bad behavior from Abbott (examples listed above).

-------

 Why this matters for Texas going blue:

Every time government expands, it creates new political constituencies for big government.  If Republicans expand government enough, eventually, those new constituencies start electing Democrats.  It's what happened in Ms. Schow's home state of Virginia.

As long as Greg Abbott is getting these sorts of headlines from national conservative outlets, he will NEVER do the hard work of taking on those afore mentioned constituencies.

If those constituencies keep growing, then...eventually...you know.

-------

Bottom Line: Texas is less free as a result of the 86th legislative session.  Greg Abbott is a big part of the reason why.  Unfortunately, nothing will change as long as national conservative outlets keep swallowing his propaganda....

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chip Roy will LOSE if he campaigns against "Hollywood and Manhattan elites"


"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14

It's not a secret that Wendy Davis is probably running against Chip Roy; unfortunately, Chip's opening salvo is depressing beyond words:



This is an idiotic strategy that is doomed to fail.

NOBODYCARES.

Or at least: No swing voter or soft partisan in CD-21 cares.  CD-21 is Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country.  Swing voters/Soft partisans in CD-21 are the type of people who travel to places like New York City and Southern California.  They might not like the policies of those places, but they will roll their eyes at this sort of nonsense.

Campaigning against "Hollywood" is intellectually-lazy claptrapIt's a dying playbook.  We strongly suspect that, in Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country, it's already dead.  If anything, it will produce negative returns.

Bottom Line: This is the stupidest political attack since Ted Cruz's campaign went after hair dye....

Saturday, June 8, 2019

#TXLEGE: The Cheapest Date in the Legislature


"You sell Your people for next to nothing,
And are not enriched by selling them."
Psalm 44:12

Yesterday, we discussed the 2015 Scott Turner supporters who got committee chairmanships and had drastic drop-offs.

Yet one legislator merits special derision: Scott Sanford.

He suffered a dropoff on par with the others...and he didn't even get a chairmanship.

Pathetic.

None of his bills particularly stand out.  Some look ok.  But nothing's anything special.

He gave up everything, and got literally nothing for it.

Bottom Line: It takes a special sprit of passive surrender to receive this haul; way to negotiate buddy....

Friday, June 7, 2019

#TXLEGE: 2015 Turner supporters who got committee chairs suffered biggest dropoff


"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
1 John 1:8

[Note: Jeremy Kitchen created a spreadsheet with information about how legislators scored on various indexes.  We consulted it extensively preparing this post.  Due to formating issues, it's easier to discuss conclusions without extensive cutting and pasting.  But we plug it heavily and you can view it for yourself here.]

With Empower Texans' index out, session to session comparisons are now appropriate.

Among the biggest dropoffs: Jeff Leach (-32), Dustin Burrows (-28), and Stephanie Klick (-20).

[Note: Scott Sanford was also a -26, but he's likely to be the subject of another blog post.]

What traits do the three members listed above share?!?  Two sessions ago, all three voted for Scott Turner for Speaker.  This past session, they were committee chairs.

Indeed, they were the reason why we were initially hopeful over Bonnen's committee assignments.

[Note: LOL on what we said about Leach and Klick here.]

One conclusion is obvious: We thought the committee chairs in question would change the house.  Instead, becoming committee chairs changed those members.  Sadly.

The borg adapts, you will be assimilated.

Bottom Line: It just is what it is (but what it is isn't good)....

Thursday, June 6, 2019

#TXLEGE: Abbott Thumbs Nose at Citizenry (pharmaceutical lobbyists got paid)


"And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said."
Exodus 7:13

Sigh:
Among the bills signed by Abbott at Thursday’s bill signing event was Senate Bill 11. Originally focused on school safety in the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, the bill was amended to include the creation of the “Texas Mental Health Care Consortium” after State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) killed a separate bill to do exactly that on procedural grounds earlier in the evening.

....

Despite the bill’s unanimous passage in the Senate and near-unanimous passage in the House, many conservative activists raised concerns over parental rights, privacy, and the potential for over-medication of psychotropic drugs.

After the bill passed the legislature, a coalition of conservative organizations across the state, including Grassroots America We The People and the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, wrote to Abbott to urge him to veto his priority legislation.

“We greatly appreciate your efforts to make schools safer. Regrettably, we cannot support these bills. SB 11 contained several features that directly addressed school safety. However, it also had provisions of concern. While some groups attempted to get these concerns addressed, the bill was only made worse,” the group said in a letter dated May 29. “We believe that the use of a psychiatric consortium that has inherent connections to the pharmaceutical industry simply puts Texas children at risk of dangerous psychotropic drugging and policies that lead to the same.”

The request fell on deaf ears, however, as Abbott signed the legislation without even responding to their objections.
 Bottom Line: Never waste a good crisis....

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

#TXLEGE: Will Abbott retreat into LAWLESSNESS to protect incumbent plumbers?!?


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

Not good:
In the final moments of the 86th Legislative Session in Austin, a bill extending the life of the State Board of Plumbing Examiners was killed in the Texas House, thus resulting in the end of licensed plumbing in Texas and one of the biggest accidental victories in occupational license reform in Texas.

At least, that was supposed to be the outcome. Now, hopes for a free plumbing market in Texas appear to have gone down the drain.

Since then, plumbing trade groups have been vocally demanding the legislature return for a special session in order to protect its occupational license scheme, looking out for their own protectionist barriers to entry and trying to flush out the competition. On Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter to say that they need not worry:

“We’ve got this. The Legislature has given the Governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needing to call a special session,” said Abbott. “We will let you know very soon. Don’t worry.”
The Texas Scorecard piece goes on to contrast Abbott's recent maneuvers with what he said on the campaign trail.

It's...not flattering.

Beyond Abbott's flip-flop, however, what's really horrifying is the lawlessness.

The Texas Constitution grants legislative authority to the legislature.  The legislature didn't act.  If Greg Abbott wants the legislature to act, he can call a special session.

That should be the end of story.

Instead, Abbott's trying to invent new authority out of thin air.

It's a precedent that should scare everyone.

[Note: That Abbott (as Attorney General) once sued Barack Obama over this exact topic is, at a minimum, ironic.]

Bottom Line:  Whatever your opinion on the regulation of plumbing, it's a question for the legislature, not the Governor making...stuff...up out of thin air.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cruz & Roy are first Republicans, ANYWHERE, to handle Occasio-Cortez correctly


"Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

By now you've heard:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz committed on Thursday to partner up with his political opposite, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to move legislation that would ban members of Congress from becoming corporate lobbyists after they leave public life.
The two were joined by Chip Roy.

This is an obvious, no-brainer, idea that should have been enacted a long time ago.  That it hasn't been speaks to the perverse incentives riddling congress.  We applaud Senator Cruz and Representatives Cortez and Roy for forcing the discussion.  Godspeed.

There's another, more important, point to consider.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has been a national political figure for about a year. Yes, we have seen some criticism of her ideas & policies.  But we've seen a lot more derogatory commentary about people who work in the service industry.  And this taking her out of context to make her look stupid schtick needs to die.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez's success comes from her willingness to call out obvious nonsense in the American economy.  It was the theme of her campaign.  It was why she live-tweeted the Congressional brainwashing session.  It's why she ridicules some of the more transparent phonies in recent memory.

Most of the time, she just goes after low-hanging fruit no-one else wants to touch...

...which is why seeing Ted Cruz and Chip Roy take her up on that low hanging fruit was so refreshing.

There's no reason why Alexandria Occasio-Cortez should have this issue to herself.

Let's not kid ourselves: Banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists faces GIGANTIC institutional opposition.  But that's no reason not to try.  At a minimum, you get some positive media coverage out of it.

It's certainly a more intelligent strategy than disparaging people who work in the service industry.

Bottom Line: Maybe it shouldn't be that way.  But it is.  If we can actually ban former members of congress from becoming lobbyists, so much the better.

Monday, June 3, 2019

#TXLEGE: A more honorable type of scoundrel


"A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction."
Ecclesiastes 6:2

Since session ended, there's been a decent amount of commentary comparing the last two speakers.

The truth is they're both pretty terrible.

Under Straus, you got some modest pro-life bills (Note: Usually when the Governor forced this issue), and little else.  Under Bonnen, you got some decent movement on property taxes, and nothing else.  Neither is acceptable.

The biggest difference is Dennis Bonnen says to your face the things Joe Straus said behind your back.

Where Joe Straus stabbed you in the back, Dennis Bonnen stabs you in the front.

Either way, stab wounds are generally unhelpful.

Bottom Line: Even if the process does improve, does it really matter if the results stay the same?!?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

#TXLEGE: Long Shot bid to VETO AWFUL so-called "Mental Health" Bills


"And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said."
Exodus 7:13

After what they did to pass this bill out of the house, we doubt it'll do much good, but signing this coalition letter was nevertheless an easy call:



Bottom Line: The odds of Abbott vetoing something he's been pushing for months are essentially zero. It's still the right thing to do. Here's hoping.

Friday, May 31, 2019

#TXLEGE: Bonnen's "no campaigning" edict violates Democrats' (*) First Amendment Rights


"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
Galatians 4:16

* -- Bonnen's edict violates the first amendment rights of all members, but for the purposes of this blog post we're elaborating on the Observer piece.

--------

The Texas Observer makes a really good point:
But soon after the session adjourned, Bonnen issued a thinly veiled warning to Democrats. In an interview with Texas’ major newspapers, Bonnen said that he expects all House members to refrain from campaigning against any of their colleagues — Republican or Democrat. “If you campaign against another one of your colleagues, two things will happen to you,” Bonnen said. “I will weigh in against you, and if I’m fortunate enough to continue as speaker, you will find yourself not well positioned in the next session.”

Democrats’ 2018 gains forced Republicans to finally address the rotten fruits of their decade-plus of legislative labor. Now, the speaker is demanding that the ascendant minority party disarm itself and maintain the status quo. According to the Dallas Morning News, when asked how a Democratic member charged with orchestrating a House takeover strategy in 2020 should proceed, Bonnen replied: “Move cautiously.”
Confession: We didn't think about it until the Observer brought it up...but "move cautiously" is a quite thuggish, mafiaesque, message for an elected official from the majority party to deliver.

Facing the best political environment they've seen in awhile, and are likely to see for awhile, members of the minority party are supposed to disarm?!?

Democrats are well within their rights, and if they have any self-respect they really ought, to tell Dennis Bonnen to pound sand.

Bottom Line: Bonnen's proposed aristocracy is bad for any number of people for any number of reasons.  Among those hurt are the minority party.  They ought not comply....

Thursday, May 30, 2019

#TXLEGE: Barring a special session, Abortion Tourism is inevitably coming to Texas


"because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Romans 1:21

Louisiana last night:
Louisiana's state legislature on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a so-called "heartbeat" pro-life bill, becoming the latest in a slew of states to enact strict new restrictions on abortion that many conservatives have hoped will end with the Supreme Court revisiting its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has said he will buck the national party establishment and sign the measure into law. Another Democrat, state Sen. John Milkovich, sponsored the bill -- underscoring the deep pro-life culture in Louisiana, even among liberal politicians.

The bill, which cleared the Louisiana House by a 79-23 vote, requires an ultrasound to be conducted prior to any abortion procedure being performed. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the bill bans abortion unless, under penalty of perjury, the abortion provider declares the procedure necessary "to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
Which means Texas now has more permissive abortion laws that almost every neighboring state (except New Mexico) and the overwhelming majority of states within 500 miles.

[Note: While we're on the topic, it's worth pointing out Mexico's abortion laws are stricter than Alabama's.]

There's lots you can say.  Plenty already has been said.  We're sure more is coming.

But none of the commentary can change one new fact of life: A significant chunk of those abortions are coming to Texas.

It's a simple legal, and geographical, reality.

When that reality fully takes hold, the elected officials who allowed it will bear responsibility.  Whether this situation arose deliberately, or if it arose from ignorance, is irrelevant.  Reality will be reality.

However we got here, only one person can change that reality: Governor Greg Abbott.

Greg Abbott can call a special session.  We have the votes to pass any pro-life bill we want.  Of course, Abbott has already said he's not doing that.

Which means that, whenever abortion tourism inevitably rears its ugly head in Texas, Greg Abbott's gonna own those headlines.

Bottom Line: When you add the the legal reality to the geographical reality, the inevitable result is obvious...unless Greg Abbott wants to change that legal reality.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

#TXLEGE: Larry Taylor's quiet revolution (Version 2.1) makes it across finish line


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

[Note: You can see our original piece "Larry Taylor's quiet revolution" piece from last session (aka. Version 1.0) here; you can see our piece from three weeks ago "Larry Taylor's quiet revolution (Version 2.0)" here.]

Over the past several days, we've been discussing the final version of the school finance bill with those we trust.  The type of unintended consequences we most feared seem...unlikely.  That being said, we stand by what we said Saturday:



[Note: A 72 hour "reading period" for the final version of any school finance bill is something we originally called for two years ago.]

Even with all that, however, for two years we've had two non-negotiable demands on any school finance bill:
  • Meaningful tax relief (aka. compression)
  • Whatever new spending does occur needs to go to the classroom, not the bureaucracy.
Given that criteria, it's hard to see the final version of the bill as anything other than a net win.

But that wasn't originally supposed to be...

...and the only reason that result emerged is because the Texas Senate, whatever their (many) other flaws this session, held firm.

-------

Tax Stuff:

The original version of HB 3 provided miniscule tax relief.  The version of HB 3 that passed the Senate contained a meaningful amount.  The final version of HB 3 actually contains slightly more tax relief than the Senate version (through a different mechanism).

The only reason that happened is because Larry Taylor stared down Dan Huberty in that conference committee...and Dan Huberty blinked.

Period.  End of Story.

But here's where the final version of the bill is truly revolutionary: It creates a long-term mechanism for ongoing tax compression without creating an equivalent mechanism for new spending.

The practical meaning is that, in future legislative sessions, the default "do nothing" position will be further tax compression.  If the legislature wants to spend, it will now require an affirmative act.  Some sessions, they might do that, but they ain't gonna do that every session.

Over the medium to long term, the new funding formulas are going shift power from educrats to taxpayers.

And that's quietly revolutionary.

--------

Teacher Pay Raises:

We've said our piece on this topic.  We're not really crazy about the concept.  But we've seen worse.  It's a middle of the pack idea.

Middle of the pack > bad.

Given that they legislature seemed determined to spend Billions on "education" this session...this was about the most bland, inoffensive, way they could have done it.

Furthermore, within the context of the current system, over time this shifts power from educats to teachers.

The original version of HB 3, however, was a blank check for bureaucrats.  Dan Huberty wanted to spend astronomical amounts on all school district employees, not just teachers.  Had that version passed, we would have never recovered from the perverse incentives.

Bland & inoffensive > never would have recovered.

The long-term implications from this power shift within the ISD's remains to be seen, but they could be significant.

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Bottom Line: If you're a taxpayer or a teacher, you like this bill.  If you're a bureaucrat, you don't.  It'll be very interesting to see how this plays over time....

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A-LIE-ance for "Life" LIES about SCOTUS order


"They are all adulterers.
Like an oven heated by a baker—
He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough,
Until it is leavened."
Hosea 7:4

The things you see scrolling through Twitter:


Yowza...looks pretty convincing.

Until you read what SCOTUS actually said:

Page 11

Translation: The fastest way to get this case in front of SCOTUS is for the 5th circuit to produce a ruling at odds with the 7th circuit.

As for Justice Thomas:

Page 14

Translation: Justice Thomas is saying the opposite of what TAL's tweet implies.

Bottom Line: Reasonable people can disagree over the degree to which SCOTUS deserves deference, but we should at least tell the truth about what they actually say....

#TXLEGE: Not "worst session ever" (but still pretty dadgum uninspiring)


"Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord;"
Lamentations 3:40

[Note: #TXLEGEwatch has a detailed examination of the session here.]

The 86th is over.  Some say it accomplished nothing, while others claim Texas just won the Super Bowl.  Both hyperbolize.

The truth lies between (though significantly closer to the former).

To call the legislature's results on property taxes and school finance "transformational" is silly.  They are, however, meaningful progress.  Just because legislators exaggerate does not change the fact that automatic rollback elections and automatic tax compression are reforms for which some people have fought for decades.

So one (possibly one and a half) cheer for the legislature.

That being said, they didn't deliver squat on any other major issue.  On medium tier issues (eg. marijuana reform), the pickings are likewise slim.  Minor accomplishments (eg. the so-called 'Born Alive' act) are spun into 'major' victories.

It reminds us of what a former Governor of Texas once said about the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Bottom Line: White-hot rage is an overreaction, but a bright-orange sense of EXTREME irritation is entirely appropriate.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Every TAXPAYER in the state of Texas is now PAYING Art Briles


"Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life;
He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing."
Proverbs 29:24

Since they did it as a Friday Evening Holiday Evening document dump, you might not have heard:
On a Friday evening news dump just before the start of a holiday weekend, the Mt. Vernon Independent School district announced that it had hired ex-Baylor coach Art Briles to lead the Texas high school’s football team. Superintendent Jason McCullough said during a Facebook live session that the school board approved the hiring in a 7-0 vote.

....

This hire comes nearly three years after Baylor fired Briles after an investigation found that the school had seriously mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct and violence against players on the football team. The Pepper Hamilton firm’s investigation found that 19 football players had sexually assaulted at least 17 women during Briles’ tenure with the team. One lawsuit against the program alleged that as many as 52 rapes occurred in that same span.

The press release that Mt. Vernon used to announce the hire unsurprisingly does not mention any of this in the slightest—the closest it comes to even mildly acknowledging some past issues is when it brings up the district’s Title IX coordinator—and it spits in the face of any allegations of misconduct with a collection of tone-deaf tidbits.

....

The implications of this hire won’t be lost on anyone with even a minimal understanding of Baylor’s scandal. Bringing in Briles is clear proof that Mt. Vernon High School values winning football games over understanding the feelings and voices of sexual assault and rape survivors, especially those who attend that school. But it also shows that the powers behind this misogynistic decision are shriveling cowards because they tried to hide it in a Friday news dump. If the school had only taken the time it spent figuring out the best way to smuggle this news past the long weekend and instead used it to look up any number of coaches that did not oversee a program with widespread issues of sexual assault, they might not be in this mess.
This website's feelings about Art Briles are well known. They haven't changed.  There's a lot we could say, but we concur with Wescott Eberts:
Briles, for his part, also failed to publicly address the key concerns, just as he’s consistently failed at every turn to take accountability for his actions or express remorse about everything that happened. He remains completely unrepentant — apologizing for his mistakes should be the baseline, the absolute baseline, for getting a second chance anywhere in public life.
Read Wescott's whole piece here.

It's gets "better."

It's not just that Art Briles is back coaching football.  It's not even just that Art Briles is back coaching football despite having never accepted responsibility.  It that Art Briles is back coaching football despite having never accepted responsibility...and we're paying for it!!!

Say what you will about Baylor, but they are a private institution.  As such, they have a certain 'institutional autonomy' to make bad decisions.  Likewise, the Hamilton Tiger Cats (the Canadian team that tried to hire Briles in 2017).

But ISD's in Texas are public!!!  As in funded by taxpayers!!!  As in YOU!!!

Have you paid sales taxes in Texas in the past year?!?

Congratulations!!!

You're now paying Art Briles.

Bottom Line: For taxpayers to foot the bill for this wretched situation is yet another condemnable detail....

Friday, May 24, 2019

Roy's move toward sanity will beget Hysteria


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

In news that shouldn't be a big story, but is:
Rep. Chip Roy became the man who delayed $19.1 billion in disaster aid to communities throughout the country on Friday.

House leaders tried to pass a multibillion-dollar disaster assistance measure, by unanimous consent, but the Texas Republican objected on the floor.

Since House and Senate lawmakers have already left town for their Memorial Day recess, the objection likely causes a 10-day holdup in delivering aid that has already been delayed for five months amid cross-party sparring. The Senate passed the measure Thursday, with President Donald Trump's blessing.

The House could still pass the bill by unanimous consent next week, if no lawmaker comes to the floor to object.
Here's the truth: The real world consequences of any of this will be minimal...and anyone who tells you otherwise is manipulating your emotions for political purposes.

Period.  End of story.

Purported federal 'disaster relief' is a farce.  It's a hodge-podge of unrelated spending shoehorned into an emotionally compelling narrative.  So-called federal 'disaster relief' hurts the communities it claims to help.

Claims to the contrary are political hysteria.

Bottom Line:  There's no crisis.  There's just an excuse for federal spending.  Kudos to Chip Roy derailing this sham....

Thursday, May 23, 2019

#TXLEGE: Honestly...do YOU trust these people?!?


"He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets;
Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips."
Proverbs 20:19

Obviously, the big three held their press conference this afternoon:



On the surface, this looks...kinda...ok.  The rollback rate changes are certainly good.  The tax compression falls within the range of "good enough."

But one comment from Governor Abbott lingers.  Towards the end of the press conference, he said the school finance bill would be "several hundred pages."  Do you trust a school finance bill that's "several hundred pages" released three days before sine die?!?

'Cause this website sure as...heck...doesn't.

Which is a shame.  Because there's a case that this package represents modest progress.  But each of those "several hundred pages" potentially contains toxic seeds.

Bottom Line:  The package announced this afternoon might improve upon the status quo.  It might be everything that they're claiming.  But when people with no credibility drop "several hundred page" bills three days before sine die it...warrants skepticism.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#TXLEGE: Texas house continues tradition of lawlessness


"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

This speaks for itself:



Is there anything else you can say?!?

Obviously, it's corrupt.  Obviously, it's grotesque.  Obviously, it's immoral.  It's also nothing new....

A powerful special interest wanted a bill passed...and the Texas house found a way to make it happen.

Citizens be damned.

Bottom Line: The Texas house seems determined, in this final week of the session, to give a clinic in why voters worldwide are livid with their elected officials....

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

#TXLEGE: 85 state reps STIFF ARM 91% of Texans


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.
Proverbs 29:2

We said our piece yesterday about where "leadership" is taking the house.  Then the taxpayer funded lobbying bill failed.  Empower Texans has a good write up.

Obviously, this is bad.  It's really bad for Republicans.  The coming days will have plenty of time for that fallout.

Before we get to that, however, let's pause and reflect on one fact: 91% of Texans (ie. not just Republicans) oppose taxpayer funded lobbying.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying is hated (*).  It's wildly unpopular.  Yet, 85 state reps (in both parties) chose to continue the practice.

Newt Gingrich used to discuss "85% issues."  Gingrich's idea was to promote a few simple, but overwhelmingly popular, reforms to empower citizens over political insiders.  While Gingrich proposed this federally, the state level parallels are obvious.

Instead, faced with a 91% issue, 85 individual Texas state representatives chose to political insiders.  It's quite something.  Yaaay bi-partisanship!!!

Bottom Line: If you want to understand why voters worldwide are livid with their elected officials, yesterday's vote on SB 29 would be a good place to start.

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* -- People who don't share this author's philosophical disposition have privately told us the most horrifying stories (we're sorry your boss didn't listen).

Monday, May 20, 2019

#TXLEGE: house "leadership" makes its bed (now they lie in it)


"That they may successfully do evil with both hands—
The prince asks for gifts,
The judge seeks a bribe,
And the great man utters his evil desire;
So they scheme together."
Micah 7:3

We're currently sitting in the house gallery for the "debate" on the taxpayer-funded lobbying bill.  They're currently discussing some point of order about something.  We have no idea how the point of order will be resolved.  At this point, we honestly don't care.

This bill might pass.  It might not.  Either way, the bill has been so badly gutted that the real world impact of its passage will be miniscule.

But house 'leadership,' led by Dennis Bonnen, made their decision over the weekend.

Last Friday, we wrote:
If those bills get done, we've had an ok session.

If those bills don't get done, it'll get really ugly.

Just look at what's happening with the Tories in the U.K.
It's now Monday, and none of those bills are getting done.

The ugliness is going to commence shortly.  We have no idea what form it will take.  But the Tories in the U.K. are a good guess.

Bottom Line: The next few years are going to be fascinating to watch....

Saturday, May 18, 2019

#atxcouncil: Lying, Phony-Ass, Schmuck Welcomes Raging anti-Semite to Town


"Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people."
Proverbs 28:15

Anyone who knows this author knows how much we loathe national politics, but some things can't go unchallenged:


Wow.

This website's beef with Steve Adler has always been, primarily, about his wretched performance as Mayor.

In Year Five of Steve Adler, Austin is:
In terms of substance, and public policy, Steve Adler is an awful Mayor.

But to be the "GoH" at an event keynoted by Ilhan frickin' Omar takes Steve Adler's phoniness to another level.

Steve Adler:



Ilhan Omar:


We could go on, but you understand.

That's not to say Steve Adler agrees with Ilhan Omar.  Steve Adler is all about Steve Adler.  He's a crony capitalist who works with the rationalization du jour.

Socially liberal grandstanding as misdirection from the more boring forms of municipal larceny has been Steve Adler's playbook for a long time.

Unfortunately, there's a difference between socially liberal grandstanding, and parading around with anti-Semites.

Steve Adler, like it or not, has crossed that line.

Any politician who crosses that line, while yammering about alleged "hate speech," is the phoniest of phonies.

Bottom Line:  Steve Adler can condemn hate.  Or he can stop attending events with those who purvey it.  He can't do both....

Friday, May 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: house leadership has a decision to make this weekend


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Proverbs 29:2

UPDATE: After writing the original blog post, but before we hit 'publish,' we received the following bill alert.


In case you haven't heard:
Republican Party of Texas priority legislation to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying received a potentially fatal blow in the Texas House on Friday morning.

Senate Bill 29 by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), which would bar the practice of governments from using taxpayer dollars to higher lobbyists who often work against taxpayers in the Texas Capitol, was passed by the State Senate last month. At the same time, legislation filed in the House by State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) languished in the Calendars Committee, never being scheduled for a vote.

Conservatives had renewed hope for the bill, however, when the Senate’s version of the bill was scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.

But shortly after the body gaveled in on Friday morning, State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) made a motion to take the bill off the calendar and send it back to the State Affairs Committee, which he chairs, reportedly in order to fix errors that could have enabled opponents to kill the bill on procedural grounds.
Obvious FACT #1: This isn't good.

Obvious FACT #2: This is happening alongside the...whatever...that's going on with the election bills.

Obvious FACT #3: We haven't heard anything about property taxes or employment law preemption in awhile.

All of these items passed the Senate.

None of them have passed the house.

So far.

Which brings us to the decision house leadership must make over the weekend: Do these bills get across the finish line?!?

Because those bills, even in their current form, represent tangible progress on those issues.

If those bills pass, even in their current form, we can declare victory and go home.  Yes, these issues will be back next session.  But those bills, even in their current form, aren't a bad start.

If.  They.  Pass.

Unfortunately, there's nothing anyone outside the chamber can do.

It's up to Dennis Bonnen.  And it's up to the committee chairs Dennis Bonnen appointed.  And it's up to the committee members Dennis Bonnen appointed.

If those bills get done, we've had an ok session.

If those bills don't get done, it'll get really ugly.

Just look at what's happening with the Tories in the U.K.

Bottom Line: We have no idea what's going to happen.  But the decisions made this weekend will have long-lasting consequences.  Pray.  And choose wisely....

Thursday, May 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Alliance for...enabling bureaucrats over patients?!?


"They are all adulterers.
Like an oven heated by a baker—
He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough,
Until it is leavened."
Hosea 7:4

Over the past week, we've seen movement to reform the diabolical Texas "Advance Directives" Act.  Mind you, this is reform, not repeal.  The bill in question leaves the wicked system in place.  It merely establishes a more workable system of 'due process' for those already trapped.

Furthermore, the horrifying Carolyn Jones case happens in the background.

Yet, even this modest concession is too much for some:



Obviously, that letter has a lot to unpack, but to yammer about "imminent and certain death" at a time when a Beaumont woman is heroically disproving their argument tells you what you need to know.

Something else in that letter speaks louder:


Wow.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history, the so-called Texas "Medical" Association has been one of the...more zealous advocacy groups for abortion in this state.

Yet an allegedly pro-life group treats them like BFF's.

At least the so-called Texas "Medical" Association has a certain 'logic.'  They're a trade group.  As such, their objective is to preserve their own pricing power.  Given this objective, it doesn't take a genius to see why they support bureaucrats over patients.

Their logic might be diabolical.  Their logic might be wicked.  But their logic IS logical.

We can't say the same for any self-respecting "pro-life" organization.

Obviously, end of life decisions are difficult.  But that's why those decisions should be made by patients and families.  Not bureaucrats backed by the force of an obscure state law.

Which, of course, is obvious to anyone who calls themselves pro-life and has a shred of integrity or self-respect.

Unfortunately, not everyone in this state who markets themselves as "pro-life" has those traits.

Bottom Line: The correct pro-life position in this case is obvious to anyone who isn't willfully blind or hopelessly compromised....