Monday, January 21, 2019

Shelia Jackson Lee, Harris County D's, Need to Answer VERY Serious Questions

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

ICYMI, late last week:
WASHINGTON — A former staffer for Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee claims in a new lawsuit that the lawmaker retaliated against her and fired her because she was planning to pursue legal action over an alleged rape by a former employee of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

The woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges she was raped in October 2015, when she was a 19-year-old intern for the CBCF, by the foundation’s intern coordinator at the time, Damien Jones. The woman said she reported the alleged rape to police and told several people, including Rep. Terri Sewell, her former boss and a distant relative of her mother’s, but did not pursue legal action at the time.

Several years later, when Jane Doe was working for Jackson Lee, the woman decided she did want to pursue legal action, and told Jackson Lee’s chief of staff Glenn Rushing in early March 2018. The woman alleges that she asked to speak with Jackson Lee about it, but a meeting never happened, and several weeks later she was fired. Jackson Lee is chair of the board for the CBCF.

Jones did not return requests for comment. After leaving the CBCF in late 2015, he continued to work in Democratic politics and recently served as the regional political director for former representative Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign. Chris Evans, a spokesperson for the O’Rourke campaign, said in an email to BuzzFeed News, “The Beto for Texas campaign was absolutely not aware of these allegations until today and no longer has a relationship with Damien Jones.”

Rushing told BuzzFeed News in a phone call that “We had nothing to do with any of the actions that have been cited and the person was not wrongfully terminated.” He declined to answer additional questions.

Jackson Lee's office later released a statement pointing to the congresswoman's record on civil rights and non-discrimination measures, and saying that the office "adamantly denies the allegations that it retaliated against, or otherwise improperly treated, the plaintiff. It is against office policy to discuss specific details about internal personnel matters."

"Although the Congresswoman is eager to respond substantively, she will do so only at the appropriate time, as the court docket dictates. The Congresswoman is confident that, once all of the facts come to light, her Office will be exonerated of any retaliatory or otherwise improper conduct and this matter will be put to rest," Jackson Lee's office said. "While we still deny the allegations, we are especially concerned about Ms. Doe and only want the best for her and the many, many young people that the Congressional office has supported, encouraged, and provided opportunities for over 20 years."

Marc Banks, a spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview that he did not know whether there had been any communication between the foundation and Jackson Lee's office about the rape allegation against Jones or Jane Doe's plan to sue the foundation. But he said that a decision to fire a congressional staffer was "outside the purview of the foundation."

"We would have no reason to harm the former intern," Banks said.

Banks said that the foundation took "immediate and swift action" to fire Jones after investigating Jane Doe's allegations, but he was "not privy" to what the foundation learned in the course of that review.


In late 2017, Jane Doe took a job in Jackson Lee’s congressional office. Soon after she was hired, according to the lawsuit, Jane Doe learned that Jones might be hired in Jackson Lee’s office, and she told Rushing that she had a “prior situation” with Jones and would not be comfortable working together. Rushing allegedly told her that he understood and didn’t end up hiring Jones “because he had a situation with CBCF and they could not have him working in the office as a result.”

In early March 2018, Jane Doe told Rushing that she had learned “more about her case involving Mr. Jones and CBCF” and was planning to go forward with legal action, according to the complaint. Jane Doe said she asked to speak with Jackson Lee, and Rushing agreed, but no meeting took place. On March 29, she said she was told she was being fired because of budget issues.

Jane Doe’s lawsuit describes times she said she spent driving Jackson Lee in her personal car she and alleges she was pressured by Jackson Lee and Rushing to get a new car after her car was damaged in an accident. When she was fired, she said that in addition to being told it was because of budget issues, that Rushing also told her, “It didn’t help that you lied about the car.” It was not immediately clear from court filings what that was a reference to.

Jane Doe alleges that the budget-related explanation was a pretext and that Jackson Lee retaliated against her for planning to take action against the CBCF related to the alleged rape.
Over the weekend:
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is refusing demands to step down as leader of the Congressional Black Caucus’ nonprofit arm amid claims she fired one of her congressional staffers over rape allegations.

Jackson Lee was told by the CBC Foundation’s board to resign during a lengthy call on Thursday night, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation. Jackson Lee resisted those demands, and the call abruptly ended as other board members were trying to figure out how to continue the conversation without the Texas Democrat.

Jackson Lee has also been pressured by leadership within the CBC to step down from her position with the foundation, according to one of the sources. The foundation’s board was expected to have another emergency call Friday night to assess the situation.


Following Jackson Lee’s refusal to step aside, at least one board member stepped down, and sources with knowledge of the situation say more are expected to follow if Lee remains. Cathy Hughes, a media executive and entrepreneur, resigned from the board, according to the two sources. Hughes, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

This looks like a very serious situation.  Obviously, we don't know all the facts.  But some early questions are unavoidable.

 Among them:
  • What was the nature of the alleged "budget issue" that caused Shelia Jackson Lee to fire Jane Doe?!?
  • Why the heck would Sheila Jackson Lee hire someone with this much baggage in the first place?!?
  • Did Shelia Jackson Lee ever inform the O'Rourke campaign about the accusations against Damien Jones?!?
That last question is especially relevant given that Damien Jones is accused of raping a young woman who was his direct professional subordinate.

The best case scenario is grotesque negligence mixed with an awfully big coincidence.  Not impossible...but the odds seem long.  Possibilities get worse from there.



National conservative media outlets are trying to make this about O'Rourke.  That's a mistake.  While things could change, we believe Shelia Jackson Lee bears significantly more culpability than O'Rourke.  It was Lee's responsibility to inform O'Rourke, not vice versa.

Except...for Borris Miles.

During the campaign, we made a big deal out of the fact that O'Rourke held a campaign event with Borris Miles [Note: THIS Borris Miles].  We didn't remark upon it at the time, but Shelia Jackson Lee was the third elected official at that event.  Given what we've just learned about Damien Jones being the link between O'Rourke and Shelia Jackson Lee, to also include Borris Miles at that event seems...newly significant.

The Texas Observer has more:
At a block-walk event on Houston’s South Side earlier that day, Damien Jones, Beto’s political director for the Houston area, laid out the stakes. “Two years ago,” Jones pronounced in his red Chucks and a black-and-white “BETO” trucker hat, “many of us had many regrets about what happened — that we didn’t do enough. This is the time to leave it all on the field. We can’t have any regrets this time.”

O’Rourke has assembled perhaps the most impressive ground game of any statewide Democrat in a generation — and the campaign is trying to reach deep into black communities.
In other words, the O'Rourke campaign was trying to "reach deep into black communities" by hiring Damien Jones to work with Borris Friggin' Miles.

"Reach deep into" indeed.


Other Harris County Democrats (especially Sylvester Turner):

As the de facto leader of the Democrats in Harris County, Mayor Turner could clean up this activity if he wanted.

Instead, from Friday night:

Earlier Today:

In other words, in light of what we learned last week, the de facto leader of the Democrats chose to attend 2 events with Shelia Jackson Lee (one of which also included Borris Miles).

Furthermore, consider that in the picture with O'Rourke shown above, Rodney Ellis is the third person in the photo.

So you've got Rodney Ellis hanging out with Damien Jones at the same time you've got Sylvester Turner doing events with Shelia Jackson Lee and Borris Miles.

With this much smoke, imagine the fire.


Bottom Line: There seem to be an awfully high number of awfully big coincidences surrounding this story.  Most, though certainly not all, seem to surround Shelia Jackson Lee.  She's certainly the best place to start....

Saturday, January 19, 2019

#TXLEGE: Patrick, Seliger, and Playing with Fire....

"Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?"
Proverbs 6:27

Yesterday, we said "time will tell" as it relates to Seliger's committee assignments.  Initial reports are in.  They're not good:
Seliger said he looks forward to championing agricultural issues and that education legislation will remain a top priority. But the senator, who’s back in his Panhandle-area district for the long weekend, said many in the area are feeling “dismayed and disrespected.”

“It’s not what I desired,” Seliger said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “There’s a negative reaction in this district, because [the finance committee] is a good position to try and do the things that are important in an area in West Texas that seems to have to fight for everything, from a budgetary point of view.”

“I know exactly what motivated the change. It was a couple of ‘no’ votes for the lieutenant governor’s priorities in 2017,” the longtime higher education chairman said. “It was a very clear warning to the Republicans that if you get off the reservation, you better be careful.”
Hoo boy.

Patrick's staff replies:
"If Senator Seliger believes serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee — a critical committee for West Texas and all of rural Texas — is beneath him, he should let us know and the Lt. Governor will appoint someone else," said Sherry Sylvester, the Patrick advisor.

This is bad; if it's not resolved quickly, it will consume the session.


Understand something: Dan Patrick needs Kel Seliger's vote (during the regular session).

It takes 19 votes to pass a bill in the Texas Senate (during the regular session).  There are 19 Republicans.  If Patrick loses Seliger, he has to find a Democrat.

Depending on the issue, it might not be impossible to find some Democrats, but it's a lot easier to pass bills with Seliger on board.


There's nothing wrong with removing Seliger from higher ed.  While we had no complaints about his chairmanship last session (he passed the two bills we wanted passed), there's a fairly obvious case for replacing him.  Furthermore, now that his wife is head of the Texas Exes, one could argue it's a conflict of interest.

But tossing Seliger from Finance was STUPID.

Finance is a gigantic committee.  One member's vote doesn't change anything (esp. now that property taxes have been moved to a separate committee).  Keeping the Finance appointment as a courtesy pick to a senior member Senator have been a no-brainer.

Instead, Dan Patrick just gratuitously insulted that senior Senator at a time when the Senator in question has a lot of leverage.


The worst part is that there was an obvious path to placate Seliger; it should have at least been tried.

Kel Seliger is a legislator who, every session, has about a zillion priorities.  Obviously, many conflict with conservative priorities.  But a decent number of them don't.

It doesn't take a genius to envisage a deal where Seliger gets all of his lower profile stuff in exchange for supporting Patrick's high profile stuff.

As cooler heads prevail, here's hoping that still happens.  But the cost for Seliger's cooperation just went up.  And it will continue to rise as long as this conflict festers.


Let's not overlook the potential nightmare of Seliger on Nominations.

Evan Smith hasn't:

Kel freezes over indeed.


For all that, remember one other thing: Kel Seliger also needs Dan Patrick.  Not as bad as the other way.  But bad enough.

For as much leverage as Seliger possesses during the regular session, it evaporates in a special.  The Texas Senate operates under completely different rules during a special.  This is something Seliger already knows, but it's something about which he should be reminded.

If Kel Seliger is the only reason for a special session, he should get nothing.


Bottom Line: Dan Patrick and Kel Seliger can both accomplish more by working together than by feuding.  That's still true.  Hopefully, cooler heads prevail.

Friday, January 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: Initial Thoughts on Senate Committee Assignments

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

Senate Committee assignments are out:

  • Schwertner out, Kolkhorst in, at HHS -- Given what we just said, to see Lois Kolkhorst take over for Charles Schwertner put it mildly...ironic.

    Beyond that aspect, however, this is a strange assignment.  Kolkhorst's background is in Oil and Gas, not health care.  Why her?!?  Why here?!?

    It's not like there's a shortage of Doctors in the Texas Senate.
  • That being said, good precedent on Schwertner -- We've been arguing for over a year that loss of committee chairs was the most important sanction we could impose on legislators who engage in funny business.  However bizarre that route it took to get to this place might have been, that precedent is now established.
  • Seliger to chair new Ag. committee -- Tough to know what to make of this one.  On the one hand, it's easy to view it as a demotion.  On the other hand, it's also easy to see how this is a good fit with Seliger's district.

    Only time will tell.

    If it is a demotion, however, beware the wrath of Seliger down the line.
  • Solid Conservatives on Education
  • Creighton in at Higher Ed. -- Ummmmmm?!?

    We've never known Brandon Creighton to have any particular interest in Higher ed. issues.  So this is...odd.  On the one hand, Creighton has historically tended to vote solidly.  On the other hand, he's not somebody who likes to upset the apple cart.

    Tough to know how that breaks on Higher Ed. issues.

  • Buckingham in at Nominations -- This could be interesting.

    Last session, Dawn Buckingham was the only Senator who even showed a pulse during the UT regent confirmation process.  We have no idea if they will be, but Regent confirmations should be an even bigger issue this session.  None of them are great, but Buckingham's record on this subject is less bad that most of the others.

    That being said, if Buckingham puts down her foot on regent confirmations, Watson, Seliger, and Alvarado will go BALLISTIC.  We have no idea how that plays out.  But it would be really entertaining to watch.  If nothing else, it would be a healthy debate to have in public.

    We've also signed onto the coalition letter related to the Sec'y of State confirmation.
  • Plum assignments for Flores
  • Business as usual for Borris Miles -- Obviously, he doesn't have a chairmanship to lose but Economic Development and HHS are...not bad.
Bottom Line: No obvious roadblocks on any major issues.  Couple interesting personnel moves.  We shall see.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Paxton forces Travis County (Democrat) Judge to rebuke LAWLESS City of Austin!!!

"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

The City of Austin violated state law by banning licensed handgun holders from entering City Hall with firearms, a Travis County District Court judge ruled today.

Judge Lora Livingston of the 261st Civil District Court fined the city $1,500 for each of six instances in which investigators with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office were denied entry to City Hall. The total fine was $9,000.

Paxton's office sued after Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill filed a complaint with the AG's office saying he had been denied entry to city hall on several occasions.

Livingston cited a provision of Texas law that bans any state agency or political subdivision of the state from prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns in government buildings with a few exceptions, including at open government meetings or in government courts. The city had argued it should be allowed to ban guns from the building because it “maintains office space for court personnel.”


“The city of Austin cannot violate the open carry law or any other law the Texas Legislature has enacted simply because they disagree with it,” Paxton said in a statement after the ruling.
Bottom Line: You know the violation of the law is FLAGRANT when a Travis County judge is forced to side with Ken Paxton and Michael Cargill over the City of Austin!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Mary Gonzalez adopts Top YCT Priority

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
Galatians 5:16

This session keeps getting curiouser and curiouser:

Followed by this:

Gonzalez's bill would repeal the horrifically misnamed so-called tuition 'deregulation' scheme the legislature passed in 2003.  Gonzalez would freeze tuition at the rate of this coming fall semester.  After that, tuition increases would require an affirmative act of the legislature.

Repealing so-called tuition "deregulation" has been a priority of this website for at least five yearsJust last week, we identified it as an important forward looking reform.  So yeah

Bottom Line: This was not something we expected, but we'll take it.

#TXLEGE: Nelson's teacher pay proposal **MIGHT** be a good start

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

We've seen conflicting chatter about the teacher pay bill introduced yesterday in the Senate.  So we decided to so something crazy.  We read the bill:

SB 3 -- Nelson teacher pay ... by on Scribd


  • Nelson's bill doesn't do anything obviously bad.  It's a simple, straightforward, state level expenditure for a specific purpose.  None of the shenanigans the educrat lobby sometimes likes to play.
    • Note: So far.
  • Any state expenditures authorized under this bill will, by definition, go into the classroom.
  • State provides a long term funding mechanism.
  • That being said, it's certainly not cheap.  It's very valid to fear Nelson's proposal will be expensive and ineffective.  Across the board raises don't incentivize good performance.
  • Section 1 (c) of the bill specifically leaves room for a merit pay program along the lines of what the Governor has proposed.  That's probably coming soon.  Still, we'd rather see the money that's going for this proposal going to that one.
  • One the other hand (ie. counting votes in the Senate), if an across the board teacher raise is what takes to pass a merit pay system, that might not be the worst trade.
  • Like it or not, this proposal is a reflection of the current political reality.
Bottom Line: Obviously, all the standard disclaimers about it being early and the devil being in the details still apply, but this isn't the worst proposal we've ever seen come out of the legislature.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#TXLEGE: House budget proposed CUTTING health care (plus other notes)

"Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly."
Proverbs 13:16

The House released their budget proposal yesterday.  Obviously, the headlines have been all about the education number (more on that below).  But we noticed something else quite interesting:
Notably, the House budget decreases state funding for health care and human services by about 3.2 percent. Education and health care make up the vast majority of state spending.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
This is interesting.  Medicaid/health care has been the fastest growing component of the state budget for decades.  Getting Medicaid under control could, conceivably, free up money for other items.  This is something for which we've been advocating for years.

At a minimum, it suggests that the House is willing to set priorities.  Yes, they plan to spend more state funds on education.  But, in order to get there, they're going to take the money from elsewhere in the budget.  That would never have happened under the previous house leadership.

As for the education number: It's the beginning of a negotiation.  They asked for a (very) big number.  Don't read too much into this (at least for now).

For now, that the House is willing to cut Health Care is much more important that whatever the final education number might be.

Then there's this:

Obviously, it should take more than a single tweet from a DMN reporter before people blow a gasket.  But this warrants monitoring.  We'll certainly see.

Bottom Line: Obviously, it's early.  Obviously, we'll have to wait and see.  But for the House to take this type of a stand, this early, over health care is new....

Monday, January 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: National educrats go BALLISTIC over Texas school finance commission

"And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
Mark 5:7

We've haven't read the school finance commission report, but this piece in the Washington Post is nuts:
But perhaps the most startling feature of the report is its recommendation to use outcomes-based funding as a critical component of the school funding system. Outcomes-based education funding is highly controversial. It is ineffective and can make inequities worse. And this Texas version, which is especially bad, will result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer with funding going to students who need it the least, not the most.
This piece goes on to paint an overwrought, inaccurate, picture of "outcomes based funding as some sort of boon to the rich.

Enter random Houston Chronicle reporter on Twitter:

Now...look...this website is not going to support a school finance proposal just because they slap the phrase "outcomes based" on it. The devil in such a plan would most certainly be in the details.  It's doesn't take a genius to see how "outcomes based" education funding could devolve into a standardized testing boondoggle.

It is, however, interesting to note the educrat lobby reacting this way.

Finally, check out the WaPo author's bio:
Burris is a former New York high school principal who serves as executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. She was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. Burris has been chronicling problems with modern school restructuring and school choice for years on this blog.
Bottom Line: So-called "outcomes based" funding may or may not be a good idea. We need to know a lot more details before we can decide about any specific programs. That being said, for this crowd to be this apoplectic about it this early in the process is intesting.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Castro launches campaign (for Governor in '22)

"There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand."
Proverbs 19:21

We spent today in meetings related to session, but apparently this happened:
SAN ANTONIO — Juli├ín Castro made it official Saturday: He is running for president.

The former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor made the long-anticipated announcement at Plaza Guadalupe, near where he grew up on the city's West Side. It came a month after Castro formed an exploratory committee, a mere formality on his way to unveiling a 2020 bid that for months appeared likely.

"I'm running for president because it's time for new leadership, it's time for new energy and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities that I had are available to every American," he said.
Blah, blah, blah...

Understand something: Julian Castro will not be the Democrat presidential nominee.  The only elections in which Julian Castro has ever run have been municipal elections in San Antonio.   A municipal campaign anywhere in Texas is, to put it mildly, a different animal from a presidential campaign.

For those unaware: Most Texas cities hold their municipal elections in May.  That means dramatically lower turnout than a November general election.  Heck, that usually means dramatically lower turnout than March primaries.

Consider Castro's three elections as mayor.




This is a guy who has never gotten more than 43,000 votes in an election.  Furthermore, his vote totals plunged as San Antonio got to know him better.  Castro was widely expected to lose his 2015 campaign, which was why Obama offered him the golden parachute at HUD in the first place.

And we're supposed to believe that a guy who's never gotten more than 43,000 votes is going to wage a successful national campaign?!?




That does not mean his campaign lacks long-term implications.  A presidential campaign boosts Castro's name ID to the point where he's a viable candidate for Governor.  And 2022, as a six-year itch election, could get really dicey.

[**COUGH, COUGH** Especially with this president ** COUGH,COUGH]

That's not to say that Julian Castro is currently planning a gubernatorial run.  We have no doubt that Julian Castro believes in his own mind that he can win the current race.  But it is to say, however, that a Governor run is Castro's logical next play.


A few thoughts on Castro, in case opposition researchers are reading.

Julian Castro has been playing "the game" in Texas for close to 20 years.  During his time as mayor, he was surrounded by a miasma of crony capitalism.  Nothing ever stuck but, as we said above, there's a reason why Obama gave him the golden parachute prior to the 2015 election.

[Note: We don't have the time or interest to do it ourselves, but if an enterprising blogger/oppo researcher/reporter were so inclined, it could be very interesting to read Castro's campaign finance reports from his mayoral runs and cross reference those against zoning changes made by the SA city council during Castro's tenure.]

Speaking of dirty San Antonio politics, there's also this:

Specifically this:

See here for more.


Bottom Line: Castro's presidential campaign likely won't amount to much, but it could still have long-term implications.

Friday, January 11, 2019

#TXLEGE: Pre-Emption bill likely to focus on wide range of municipal abuses of employers

"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

"We're going to figure out how to most effectively stop cities from micromanaging employment.  It will cover sick leave.  But it might not be limited to sick leave."

So said Senator Donna Campbell at this morning's TPPF policy orientation panel on the so-called "sick leave" entitlement the city of Austin created last year.

This is good.  Micromanaging the relationship between employees and employers naturally begets fewer jobs and lower wages.  While the Austin "sick leave" entitlement was the latest attempt along these lines, it won't be the last.  The legislature is wise to plan for the future.

Campbell pointed out how complicated employment regulations empower big business at the expense of non-profits, small businesses, and startups.  Big business can afford the lawyers.  Non-profits, small businesses, and startups cannot.

During Q & A, this author could not help pointing out that the city of Austin's ordinance is the direct, and predicable, of conservatives' failure to engage on the local level.  In a room full of people wondering how such a crazy policy was passed, we were the only person was at council that night.  There's a direct relationship between those facts.  Former United States Senator Phil Gramm agreed.

Also noteworthy: We told Senator Campbell about Wendy Davis' comments on the night the Austin entitlement passed.

Bottom Line: Nothing good can come from municipal governments attempting to micromanage the relationship between employers and employees....

Thursday, January 10, 2019

#TXLEGE: An all sorts of interesting panel about property taxes

"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

"If we don't fix it this session, we're in big trouble."

So said Drew Springer at this afternoon's TPPF policy orientation panel on property taxes.

The panel featured a number of interesting nuggets; among them:

  • Senator Paul Bettencourt on Speaker Bonnen's willingness to engage the issue in good faith: "Quite a departure from the last speaker."
  • Bettencourt -- As property values go up, tax rates have to go down.
  • Bettencourt -- "The state has to stop Robin Hood."
  • Bettencourt plugged uniform election dates.
  • Tarrant County Judge Glenn Whitley gave a lot of the usual talking points about "state mandated services" such as a court system and jails...but, if courts and jails were the only thing on which counties were spending their money, there wouldn't be a problem.
  • To his credit, Whitley also mentioned the ENORMOUS sums Texas gives away as tax exemptions; we've previously discussed how this could be an area of widespread cross-partisan consensus.
  • Springer calls for using new revenue from various excise type taxes to buy down property taxes.
  • Fun local fact: Apparently, Travis county has had the slowest county tax growth of any major urban county in the state!!!
That last one is the hugest of them all.  Last session, Drew Springer was one of the primary obstacles to property tax reform.  Honestly, it's noteworthy that Drew Springer is constructively engaging on this issue in the first place.

We know a few people on Facebook were mad about an obscure thing that happened in yesterday's rules debate, but today we found ourselves wondering who this guy was and what he had done with the Drew Springer from last session.

But we'll take it.

Bottom Line: It's too soon to tell the form in which it will take shape, but there will be tangible progress on this issue this session....

#TXLEGE: Speaker's office mends some important fences

"but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,"
1 Peter 1:15

"The way you keep a Republic is by being a truthteller."

So said Speaker Bonnen this morning at TPPF's policy orientation.  The speaker said so in reference to TPPF, an organization he praised for "fearlessly promoting ideas" in the legislature.  It was subtle, but it was unmistakable.

We've previously discussed the significance of the speaker showing up at this event, but today's remarks took it a step further.

In 2013, the 83rd legislature increased spending by 26%.  TPPF called them out on it at the time.  It was the single most effective attack on legislative leadership during Straus' tenure.  Straus never forgave them.

For the new speaker to praise "truthtellers" "fearlessly promoting ideas" regardless of political favor is not an accident.

Bonnen also took subtle, but noteworthy, jabs at the educrat lobby.  Specifically, he said "we need education to be more responsive."  Taxpayers deserve "a return on their investment" on education spending.  Bonnen was also gracious and complimentary towards Ken Paxton.

Bottom Line:  If you knew what to look for, it was impossible to miss....

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

#TXLEGE: House's new sexual harassment policy...doesn't look like it changes much

"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;"
Ephesians 5:3

From today's rules debate:
Amid continued scrutiny over how lawmakers handle reports of sexual misconduct by their colleagues, members of the House on Wednesday approved a measure that will strengthen the way the chamber addresses complaints of sexual harassment.

As part of a unanimous vote on the House's standard housekeeping resolution that governs its operations, the chamber approved a new internal policy that would move investigative duties for complaints of inappropriate behavior to a legislative committee with subpoena power. It also cements the use of independent investigations of elected officials.


Under the new policy, sexual harassment complaints would go through the chamber's general investigating committee, which would investigate and recommend sanctions based on the severity of the harassment. If the complaint involves a member of the House, the committee would be required to appoint an independent investigator.

House members made a slight change to the proposed policy that specified any independent investigation of a state representative would be a fact-finding mission only and not involved in any potential remedial action.
In other words, this is still the House investigating the House.  Sure, they say they'll appoint an "independent investigator."  Baylor did the same thing.

We all know how that worked out.

Furthermore, there's no timetable for potential investigations.  This means the House can still slow walk things.  Delay still equals death.

That being said, to the House's credit, at least they don't have Borris Miles and Charles Schwertner continuing to hide in plain sight.

Bottom Line: It's probably a small amount of incremental progress, but the underlying dynamic remains unchanged.

#TXLEGE: Senate Tea Leaves

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

"Differences will be settled in a professional manner."

Dan Patrick spoke at TPPF's policy orientation this afternoon.  The quote above was in response to a question about how he expects to work with Dennis Bonnen.  It's also a good summary of what (at least so far) seems to be different under the new speaker.

Patrick stated the top priorities for this session were the interrelated issues of property taxes/school finance/teacher pay.  A more efficient school finance system frees up money for property tax relief/reform.  In order to accomplish a more efficient school finance system, you need to "repurpose" money out of the bureaucracy into the classroom.  Patrick made a really interesting point about it being difficult to blame teachers for turning into bureaucrats when you look at the pay disparity between the two.

Kel Seliger also spoke on a panel about higher ed.

Seliger said some things with which we agreed and some things with which we disagreed.  He'll still do that.  He's still Seliger.  But Seliger's tone seemed constructive, not obstructionist (which is smart, considering that we don't need his vote in a special session).

Bottom Line: Obviously, the margin for error is a lot thinner in the Senate this session.  On some issues, the window is closed.  But, barring unforced errors, the votes are there on most issues.   If it takes a special session (16 votes instead of 19), so be it.

#TXLEGE: Some subtle, positive, signs from Bonnen

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

Nobody's surprised Dennis Bonnen was elected speaker yesterday, but a couple moves he made shortly thereafter were very interesting.

First, did you notice who's sat behind Bonnen as he gave his acceptance speech?!?

Jeff Leach and Stephanie Klick.

If Jeff Leach and Stephanie Klick were invited to sit behind the speaker as he addressed the body, that means conservatives are no longer shut out of the speaker's office.  It doesn't necessarily mean we get everything we want.  But it does mean we're no longer being artificially shut out.

After the House adjourned, Bonnen then attended Ken Paxton's swearing in ceremony (as the picture above attests).

It wasn't anything Bonnen said or did at the Paxton event...but the fact that he was there spoke volumes.

Put differently: Can you imagine Dennis Bonnen's predecessor showing up at a Ken Paxton event?!?

Subtle, but huge.

Bottom Line:  A lot of work remains...but for the first time in a long time it looks like that work might not be pointless.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#TXLEGE: Straus' departure is what makes 'solving' school finance possible

"For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury."
Revelation 18:3

As Joe Straus prepares to slink off into the dust bin of history, it's worth examining one claim he's often made during his "farewell" tour:
Now, with the next legislative session approaching, there is a growing sense of urgency to address the issues that we've been talking about for many years, such as school finance, and much less attention on issues that do little more than needlessly divide voters.
Horse manure.

Over the past two sessions, Joe Straus has been the primary obstacle on school finance.  Make no mistake: Joe Straus wanted to spend a lot of money.  Joe Straus never wanted to "reform" anything.

Last session, the house's 'school finance reform' proposal was HB 21.  While the house sold HB 21 as a school finance bill, in reality HB 21 was a spending bill.  HB 21 did nothing to provide relief to taxpayers or reduce waste in the current system.  HB 21 merely attempted to pour a bunch more money into the status quo.

[Note: You can read what we said about HB 21 during the regular session here and from the special session here.]

Pouring more money into the status quo is a non-starter.

Bottom Line: A more efficient system of funding public education is, potentially, a big win for taxpayers and students.  For the state pick up a larger share of the total is likewise, potentially, part of that more efficient system.  For that potential to materialize, however, taxpayers and students need structural reforms.  Due to the nature of the his political coalition, Joe Straus was never willing to consider structural reform.

Monday, January 7, 2019

#TXLEGE: 4 issues on which a forward looking Texas GOP really OUGHT to engage

"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands."
Psalm 90:17

With the lege returning tomorrow, we suggest that the following lower profile issues will have outsized economic (*) impact over the next decade:

  1. Housing Costs -- Housing costs are the largest line item in most household budgets.  Finding an affordable place to live is one of the biggest challenges Americans under 40 face.  While Texas is in better shape than most locations, worrisome trends are emerging (starting with, but not limited to, Austin).

    Government policies such as restrictions on permitting and zoning artificially  limit the supply of housing, which drives up cost.

    As a bonus, free-market housing policies could also unshackle capital currently tied to Texans primary residence.  Imagine what you would do with the money if your housing costs were less than 10% of your income.
  2. Tuition Costs -- Ending the ability of public universities to raise tuition willy-nilly is a precondition for all other higher ed reforms.

    It's also a large expense for Texans under 30.

    Likewise, reigning in university tuition could unshackle capital currently tied to tuition payments/servicing student loans.
  3. Health Care small ball -- While federal reform will continue to remain elusive, the Texas can still remove state level supply restrictions.
  4. Occupational licensing -- If you want people to become productive members of society, requiring them to get permission from the government to work doesn't help.
Bottom Line: This is low hanging economic fruit.  We don't promise anything, but it might be similar political fruit.  Will anyone pick it?!?


* -- Note: There's a decent chance these issues also pay political dividends, but no guarantee.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Attacking Hurd over meaningless vote is dumb

"Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment,
But a man of understanding walks uprightly."
Proverbs 15:21

This piece left us scratching our head:
A day into the new Nancy Pelosi-run U.S. House of Representatives, and Will Hurd has ditched the GOP.

The San Antonio congressman was one of seven Republicans on Friday to vote for the Democrats’ attempt to fund government without providing the border security money President Donald Trump has said is contingent on his signing the bill.

Asked about his vote, Hurd told Texas Public Radio he doesn’t want to be “playing politics with a shutdown.”


Indeed, his vote was the epitome of “playing politics”: by voting to advance legislation that Trump and other Republicans had already said they would not support, Hurd effectively chose to rebuke his own party on a bill doomed to die.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

As the last sentence notes, the bill was already "doomed to die."   It had zero-impact on public policy.  This is exactly when you want someone to take a vote 'against their party.'  If that's "playing politics," so be it.

It's not a secret that Will Hurd represents a swing district.  It's also not a secret that Will Hurd just got re-elected in an awful national environment.  While southwest Texas has trended Republican in recent cycles, it still requires finesse.  Elected officials in such areas ought to be allowed latitude for such finesse.

Especially when the vote in question has zero impact on public policy.


Then there's the whole Pete Flores factor.

Like it or not, Pete Flores and Will Hurd sink or swim together.  You don't get one without the other.  If you want Pete Flores to have any chance at re-election, you have to cut Will Hurd some slack.

And we want to re-elect Pete Flores.


Without belaboring it...folks might want to consider WHY an elected official who represents this geographic location might take this particular position on this particular issue.


Bottom Line:  If an elected official has to take a certain number of votes for political positioning, you want them to do it at times when there's no impact on public policy.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Houston ISD **NIGHTMARE** is an Opportunity (if GOP follows through)

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."
Luke 17:2

Confession: Prior to a week ago, we hadn't been aware of the ongoing dispute between Houston ISD and the State of Texas.

Then, last week, the outgoing Republican Harris County Treasurer posted:

Followed by Governor Abbott:

The Trib has context:

In a scathing tweet Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott slammed Houston Independent School District leaders for "self-centered ineptitude" and rallied for the state to take over the district's school board.


In 2015, Texas passed a strict law that allowed the state to impose sanctions on school districts with schools that consistently failed to meet state academic standards. Now, Houston ISD must boost the performance of four of its chronically low-performing schools in 2019, or it will be taken over by the state or be forced to shut down those schools.

Abbott's tweet was responding to a Wednesday Houston Chronicle opinion piece written by a contingent of local community members. The article argued that the district should get lawmakers to repeal that law and sue the state's education agency if the Legislature refuses.
Yikes.  This is a tragedy for Houston families.  But, in that tragedy, there's also opportunity for the GOP.

This Houston ISD debacle is a textbook example of how big government fails.   A taxpayer funded organization that pays bureaucrats $300k (+) can't provide students with an acceptable education.  The narrative writes itself.

It's not a secret that the GOP needs to improve in both urban areas and minority communities; Houston ISD is a great place to start.

The good news: Between the former county treasurer and the sitting Governor, it looks like GOP elected officials are on top of this one.  Likewise Paul Bettencourt.  It's a strong start.

Our concern: This isn't the 'sexiest' issue.  It's not likely to generate appearances on Fox News.  Thus, we worry about the follow through.

But you've gotta start somewhere.

Bottom Line: There are few failures of big government more blatant than urban school districts.  Children being maleducated deserve an alternative to the entitled, spendaholic, bureaucracy.  Governor Abbott has gotten that ball rolling.  If they're smart, the GOP will keep it rolling.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

#TXLEGE: Straus...selectively edits...history on his way out door

"For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury."
Revelation 18:3

The other night, we announced our pleasure at Joe Straus' departure.  Turns out we misread the Texas Constitution.  Straus remains the sitting speaker until Tuesday.

Which gave him time to release a preposterous DMN op-ed:
Joe Straus: I'm leaving the Texas Legislature but not the debate
The op-ed is vintage Straus.  Apparently, he's planning to create some sort of "policy shop" with his leftover campaign funds.  Straus leaves a target-rich environment, but we'll focus on three claims.


The Budget:

We've balanced budgets, cut billions of dollars in taxes and kept record amounts of money in reserves.
Horse manure.

Under Joe Straus' 'leadership', the Texas house never met a spending bill it didn't like.   This is the gang that, less than two years ago, wanted to drain the rainy day fund...a month before Hurricane Harvey.  But, "record reserves!"



We provided long-needed funding for water-supply projects[.]
There's a lot that can be said about this.  "Water policy" has been an ongoing act of larceny in this state for a long time.  Straus didn't invent this racket, but he absolutely expanded it.

Read what we said about Straus' crowning achievement on "water policy" at the time.


Running the house:

But in the Texas House, we've shown that there is a better way to lead - with a pragmatic and inclusive approach....
If by "pragmatic and inclusive" you mean completely lawless, then yeah, and yeah, and yeah, and yeah....

See more here.


It's beyond the scope of this blog post, but somebody really OUGHT to examine whether Straus will be personally enriched by this so-called "policy shop."


Straus yammering about so-called 'economic development' dovetails with what we said yesterday about crony capitalism.


Bottom Line: Good riddance.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Apple "Deal" + Open Seat Primaries = Opportunity in WillCo for proactive candidates

"So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

Late last year, we said our piece about the failures of the WillCo. GOP as it relates to the Apple "deal."  As we consider past failures, however, we can't help spotting opportunity.  It's an opportunity they would be well advised to take.

During the 2020 cycle, there will be (at least) 3 "open seat" primaries for seats that have recently flipped:
  • HD 52 (Round Rock/Hutto/Taylor) -- The old Larry Gonzales seat.
  • HD 136 (Cedar Park) -- The soon-to-be old Tony Dale seat.
Each of these races can be won.  Each of them should still be Republican.  Yet the atrophied WillCo. GOP has recently squandered each.

In 2020, the opportunity exists for pro-level playing field/anti-crony capitalism GOP candidates across WillCo.  Such candidates should argue that the WillCo GOP's recent forays into crony capitalism have lead to higher taxes and more Democrats getting elected.  Given it's immense wealth, the recently proposed Apple 'deal' is the worst example.

Such a campaign would make three arguments:
  1. Crony Capitalism is immoral -- Preferential treatment for the wealthy and politically connected, with the Apple "deal" as the flagrant example, is an inherent abuse of power.
  2. Crony Capitalism is bad for the economy -- Having made the abstract moral argument, it's also important to highlight the practical consequence of crony capitalism meaning a net tax increase.
  3. Crony Capitalism is awful politics -- Ending the abuse of political power and keeping taxes low ought to be sufficient.  But, clearly, it isn't.  So let's talk politics.

    Special treatment for the wealthy and politically connected, along with the higher taxes that naturally ensue, lays the foundation for Democrats.

    And nowhere is that more obvious, in recent years, than Williamson county.
In 2020, the WillCo D's are going to run against Trump.  That's perilous territory.  But if the WillCo GOP forces the WillCo D's to defend preferential treatment for the wealthy and well connected...they just might remind voters why they rejected the party of Hillary Clinton in the first place.

They certainly won't do any worse than they've been doing.

Bottom Line: Williamson County desperately needs an anti-crony capitalism/pro-level playing field insurgency.  Open seat primaries are a good platform.  This wretched Apple 'deal' is a great place to start.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

UH's, Applewhite's, Chickens Come Home to Roost; Kendal "White Women" Briles gets golden parachute

"Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall."

Proverbs 16:18

Reading the Athletic's analysis (Note: Subscription Required) of the UH coaching vacancy, this stands out:
When November began, Houston had a 7-1 record and was No. 17 in the AP poll, and quarterback D’Eriq King was among the most prolific players in the country. Things were rolling.

Less than two months later, Houston fired head coach Major Applewhite after finishing 8-5 with a 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. Things change quickly.
This isn't surprising when you consider the arrogance and greed UH has shown in the past year.


Kendal "White Women" Briles:

Under Major Applewhite, UH hired an offensive coordinator with more sexual assault baggage than any other active coach in the country.

In case you have forgotten Kendal Briles' CV:
Former Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles allegedly used sex to sell the football program according to a new lawsuit against the university obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

The lawsuit, filed by a woman identified as Elizabeth Doe who reports being gang raped by two former football players, alleges that Baylor "used sex to sell" the football program to recruits. One Dallas-area high school recruit said Briles once asked him, "Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players."

Briles, the son of fired Baylor head coach Art Briles, is now the offensive coordinator at FAU.

The lawsuit is another bombshell in the long-lasting Baylor sexual assault scandal. The investigation by lawyers identified at least 52 "acts of rape" by 31 football players from 2011 to 2014. This included five gang rapes, at least two of which were committed by 10 or more players at one time, according to the lawsuit. These numbers are significantly higher than previously disclosed by Baylor's regents.

Meanwhile, UH's rationalization for hiring Briles was that he was some sort of alleged genius as an offensive coordinator.

 Yet, from an on-field perspective, Briles' offense only managed 14 points...against Army.

It's fitting.


UH's stonewalling re: Kendall "White Women" Briles:

[Note: Keep in mind that, throughout all this, UH was tooting their own horn in the local media about their post #MeToo handling of sexual assault.]

But, even though he doesn't deserve it,  let's give Kendal Briles the benefit of the doubt.  Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that the Baylor Truthers are right.  Let's assume that Art and Kendal Briles were scapegoats.

If all of the above were true, then UH hiring Kendal Briles might have been a worthwhile act of forgiveness.

If, however, the above were true...then one would think UH would be extra-transparent about how they vetted Kendal Briles.

UH did the opposite:
University of Houston President and Chancellor Renu Khator assured faculty on Tuesday that the university conducted additional review "above and beyond" typical hiring practices when it added ex-Baylor University football assistant coaches Kendal Briles and Randy Clements to its football program.

Both Briles and Clements were employed by Baylor during a sexual assault scandal. UH announced the hires earlier this month.

Khator, who wrote to faculty in an email Tuesday, said the university also required coaching staff to receive additional training about the law, UH policies "as well as about our culture of reporting."

Khator did not mention Briles and Clements by name or by their former affiliation with Baylor in the email, but a university spokesman confirmed that the two were the subject of the notice. Khator also said that the "new staff members" had morality clauses in their contracts, which Briles and Clements did.
aka: "Trust us."

We didn't trust UH.

Shortly after UH hired Kendal Briles, this author sent an open records request about how Kendal Briles was vetted.  UH's response left more questions than answers.  But what little we did learn undermined the official story.

Specifically, based on information UH released in response to an open records request from this author, we learned:
  • Baylor raised red flags about Kendal Briles.
  • Major Applewhite remains in contact with Art Briles.
  • Applewhite was more concerned about the Kendal Briles hire leaking early than we was about any of the Baylor stuff.
That's not good.

In response, we sent several rounds of follow up open records requests.  We got nothing.  As in, UH literally didn't respond to our requests.  Keep in mind, they're obligated by law to at least respond.

The situation got so bad that we filed an official complaint with the Attorney General's office.

While the Attorney General's office resolved the immediate issue, none of the above inspires confidence in how UH originally vetted Kendal Briles.


Major Applewhite's 'extra-cirriculars':

Then there's this:
A lawsuit by former Texas women’s track coach Bev Kearney against the school is probing how administrators in the offices that investigate campus sexual misconduct handled former football assistant Major Applewhite’s 2009 relationship with a student trainer on a bowl trip.

Kearney, who is black, was forced out in 2013 after the school learned she had a relationship with one of her athletes a decade earlier. She has alleged race and sex discrimination, noting that Applewhite, who is white, was allowed to keep his job and was later promoted after his incident was discovered. Applewhite, a former quarterback at Texas, stayed on staff through 2013 and is now the head coach at Houston.
[Note: We said our piece about this lawsuit from the Longhorn perspective at the time.]

By itself, this incident doesn't reveal much.  Obviously, it's not good.  But Major Applewhite shouldn't be crucified for doing something irresponsible on a night when everyone was partying.

That being said, in the context of the Kendal Briles hire, a pattern of arrogance as it relates to sexual matters begins to emerge.

We've also always found it interesting that this story emerged during the same week UH was stonewalling over Briles.

Finally, one can only wonder if Major Applewhite is hiding other skeletons.


Borris Miles:

Then there's this:

So Tillman Fertitta, UH's Board Chairman [Note: Yes, THAT Tilmann Fertitta], had Borris FRIGGIN' Miles as an honored guest at a UH football game.

Yes, THAT Borris Miles.

In fairness to Tilman Fertitta, UH is located in Miles' state senate district.  So a case can be made that including Miles is politics as usual.  But, with all due respect to Tilman Fertitta, we don't think politics as usual applies with Borris Miles.

A toxic culture starts at the top.


Kendal "White Women" Briles' Golden Parachute at Florida State:

Despite all that:
Kendal Briles has been hired to be Florida State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, head coach Willie Taggart announced Sunday.

“I’m excited about the addition of Kendal to our staff,” Taggart said.

“He brings play-calling experience and familiarity with the type of scheme and tempo we will run, which is similar to the offenses he has coordinated. His ability to recruit, manage an offensive staff, develop quarterbacks and make in-game adjustments will be beneficial to us as we evolve in our offense. Kendal has success at the Power 5 level and has also shown his adaptability to personnel and situations that occur during a season. He had multiple opportunities following the 2018 season and we feel the fit here will be a good one.”

Briles, who will have primary play-calling duties, comes to FSU having served as an offensive coordinator at Baylor during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Florida Atlantic in 2017 and Houston in 2018.
Obviously, we're appalled.  But he's not Texas' problem any longer.  Florida can have him.

Also, for the record: Florida State is Jameis Winston's alma mater.


Bottom Line: As UH assesses what went wrong this season, they'd be wise to do a deeper self-examination....