Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Luckiest Man in Texas (for now)

"I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11

Wasn't expecting her to pull the trigger:

M.J. Hegar in a U.S. Senate race is an interesting dynamic.  How it play out remains to be seen.  But the down ballot implication is obvious.

Nobody is happier about this decision than John Carter.

In case you forgot:

Throughout last fall's campaign, we argued (on multiple occasions) that Carter would be safe in a midterm, but that a presidential cycle was a different story.  That being said, even we didn't think Carter would lose WillCo.  We still think Carter's a terrible candidate.

John Carter is the Congressional equivalent of Wonder Bread: Old, White, and bleached of nutritional value.

Yet, the woman who nearly took him out last time decides to run for something else.


That being said, the filing deadline isn't for 8 months; it wouldn't surprise us to see M.J. Hegar switch races after Labor Day.


Bottom Line: John Carter is a pretty worthless congressman.  John Carter is a reliably cheap date for plutocracy; the type of dullard too arrogant to comprehend his own stupidity.  If Karl Rove and used dish soap had a baby, it would be John Carter.  That being said, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good (or smart) (or personable) (or interesting).

Monday, April 22, 2019

#TXLEGE: Sham Bill Nevertheless Accomplishes Political Purposes

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6

[Note: Van Halen's "Runnin' with the Devil" literally came on in the background as we sat down to write this blog post.]

Fascinating write up in the Texas Observer over last week's passage of the 'born-alive' act:
As the Texas House voted on the first anti-abortion bill to make it to the floor this session, advocates rolled down a banner above the board displaying lawmakers’ votes: “STOP TURNING LIES INTO LAWS.”

The House gave initial passage to the bill, titled the “Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act,” after a brief but tense floor debate Tuesday evening, and gave it a final stamp of approval on Wednesday. The measure, House Bill 16, is Texas’ version of a national proposal that failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. HB 16 would penalize doctors who don’t give full medical treatment to babies born alive after abortion. Practically speaking, the bill does very little: There have been zero cases reported by the state since it started tracking them in 2013. Even if it did occur, federal law already requires infants born alive at any stage in development be given equal protection. But abortion-rights advocates say the measure is dangerous political propaganda that aims to paint abortions later in pregnancy as extreme and target the doctors who provide them.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Money quote from Donna Howard:
“We refuse to waste the limited time we have here to take care of the people’s business by entertaining malicious and purely political attacks against women and doctors,” Howard said. “We refuse to ignore the expertise of medical professionals and allow them to be targeted and harassed. We refuse to use the power entrusted in us by our constituents and the voters of Texas for political theater, or to be party to turning lies into law.”
Here's the thing: Donna Howard is correct.  This 'born-alive' bill is political theater.  But (like all Democrats) she misunderstands the intended target of the theatrics.  In her misunderstanding, she led Democrats right into the trap.

Allow this guy to explain:


As we explained about six weeks ago:
There's nothing inherently wrong with this bill.  Obviously, babies still alive after an abortion deserve medical care.  But, notice that phrase: After an abortion.
A month ago, following Democrats' stunt at the committee hearing:
This bill doesn't stop a single abortion.  This bill only goes into effect after the baby is 100% outside the birth canal.  That's why we've been unenthusiastic about it.  But Holy Toledo Democrats....

There will be plenty of time to discuss the proper response, but it's worth taking a second to reflect on the insanity of this position: Texas Democrats want to Deny Medical Care to Infants who are 100% outside the birth canal.
Again, The Texas Observer article linked above is correct. This bill doesn't stop a single abortion.  That's not its purpose.

The purpose of the 'born-alive' bill is to find an obvious, common sense, issue with almost zero practical impact.  Then get the Democrats to vote against it.  Which most of them just did (more on that below).


This issue polls well with suburban women.


Here's what's crazier: In a session in which 'bi-partisanship' (hashtagNewDay, hashtagTexasPlan, hashtagTheTimeisNow) is all the rage, the Democrats could have used this to neutralize abortion as a campaign issue.

Had the Democrats gone along with this farce, they could have taken a vote for political cover without stopping a single abortion.

They could have made it all about 'bi-partisanship.'  They could have spun it as being 'magnanimous.'  They could have appeared to have made a concession (without conceding anything in reality).  Heck, they probably could have traded their support for several Billion dollars of additional spending.

Instead, they took the vote they took.....


Democrat State Reps elected in 2018 who voted against 'born-alive' act:
  • Michelle Beckley
  • Rhetta Bowers
  • John Bucy
  • Gina Calanni
  • Art Fierro
  • Vicki Goodwin
  • Julie Johnson
  • Ray Lopez
  • Terry Meza
  • Lina Ortega
  • Ana-Maria Ramos
  • John Rosenthal
  • James Talarico
  • Erin Zweiner
Obviously, a few of those are safe seats where one Democrat took over for another.  But most of those are districts the D's picked up last fall.  Good luck defending that vote.

Furthermore, most of those Democrats are white, a point upon which we will elaborate below.


Let's return to the Texas Observer article that was the original reason for this blog post:
The bill passed, 93-1-50; Republicans were joined by 12 Democrats to support it, while state Representative Harold Dutton, D-Houston cast the sole “no” vote and 50 lawmakers registered “present, not voting.”
Sssssssssay what?!?  12 Democrats voted for the 'born-alive' act?!?  While there are a handful of D's that vote for pro-life bills, 12 is really high.

Which ones?!?

[Note: Joe Moody later made a journal statement for the bill.]

The overwhelming majority of those members are Black or Hispanic; all of those members, except one, represent majority-minority districts.

That's a racial dynamic Republicans should exploit.

Especially when white Democrats are taking the votes referenced above.


Bottom Line: We'd rather prevent abortions, but we'll take the campaign issue....

Saturday, April 20, 2019

#atxcouncil: Flannigan Abandons Pretenses to Fiscal Moderation

"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light."
Luke 8:17

The things you see scrolling through Facebook:

These are the same rancid Texas Municipal League talking points to which we've grown accustomed.  So Flannigan's propagandizing for the taxpayer-funded lobbying industrial complex.  Congratulations Jimmy, you must be so proud.

But beyond the political implications of Flannigan aligning himself with rent-seekers over taxpayers, are the economic implications for our community.

Any serious advocate for middle class taxpayers understands automatic election triggers give taxpayers leverage.  If you oppose automatic election triggers, you oppose leverage for taxpayers.  It's that simple.

Jimmy Flannigan has always sold himself as a kinder, gentler, type of fiscal conservative.  By avoiding his predecessor's bombast, he could be a more effective advocate.  That characterization has always been a stretch (esp. since Flannigan started voting for soccer stadiums and tax hikes).

Bottom Line: To stand with taxpayer funded lobbyists over taxpayers speaks for itself....

Friday, April 19, 2019

Imagine Friday Afternoon

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Matthew 27:46

Every year, on Good Friday, one question that stands out: What would it have been like, to be one of the disciples, during the hours after the crucifixion, but before the crucifixion.

You've just seen the Messiah of the world falsely accused.  You've seen His fraudulent conviction.  You've seen Him suffer in the most gruesome way possible.  You saw Him die.

The bastards got away with it.

Imagine the gloating.  Imagine hearing the gloating.  Imaging the mix of devastation and rage the disciples must have felt.

We've lost elections.  We've lost in sports.  WE HATE LOSING.  We hate it so, so, sooooooooooooo much.  Losing sucks.  It sucks so much.  But imagine that loss....

Of course, the truth is that disciples didn't know their Old Testament well enough.  If the disciples had known their Old Testament, nothing that happened on Good Friday would have surprised them.  That's the real lesson.

But there's no reason to believe the figured out that lesson on Friday afternoon....

Thursday, April 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: Speaking about More Efficiently Funding Education

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

Yesterday, immediately following the committee discussion about higher ed. funding, we attended TPPF's event: Using Efficiency Audits to Help Schools Succeed.  The timing was ironic, because we think efficiency audits are a BIG part of the solution for higher ed. funding.  While TPPF's event discussed K-12 funding, the principle applies at all levels of education.

For those who remember Prop. K from last fall, we're talking about the same type of efficiency audit.  They're designed to root out waste.  TPPF wants to apply them to school districts.

For all of the bill's flaws, HB 3's silver lining is that it requires school districts to undergo efficiency audits before they can raise M&O taxes.  As TPPF's Kara Belew explained, that's a major reform.  It might make the bill more palatable.

The other panelist was Erin Covington, from the firm Alvarez-Marsal.  They're a firm that performs these audits with various governmental entities.  Covington discussed specific benefits specific entities received.  While some of the changes were big, policy-making, decisions, other stuff was minor.  One story Covington told, about a school district that saved millions by having its maintenance staff work in the evening (easier access to classrooms), stood out.

During Q&A, we asked Covington about how she dealt with entrenched special interests.  We asked because of this guy's performance in last fall's election.  Covington's response was that they let the facts speak for themselves.  We suspect that this guy didn't want said facts to speak for themselves.

Bottom Line: Periodic efficiency audits are a no-brainer.  All levels of government should adopt them.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a political hack (who's probably getting rich off political connections).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: Consensus and Dissention on University Tuition

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

[Note: The hearing can be viewed here; our testimony is 90ish minutes in.]

We testified this morning in favor of HB 132 (Gonzalez): "Relating to a limitation on the amount of tuition charged by public institutions of higher education"; this is the tuition freeze bill we discussed in January.

Gonzalez did a really good job laying out her bill.  She explained how public university tuition has exploded across Texas.  This is personally relevant to Gonzalez seeing how, apparently, she's just completed her Phd.  What we really loved, however, Gonzalez pointed out that shuffling off tuition to the Board of Regents' was a way for the legislature to duck responsibility.


Gonzalez made most of the points we wanted to make.  During our testimony we added that, while most of the problems in higher ed. policy are federal, that was no reason for the state of Texas to make things worse.  We've thought that how Texas public universities set tuition rates was a particularly bad system for at least five years.

That was where things got interesting.  Following our testimony, Chairman Turner felt compelled to explain that, while he was very sympathetic to the complaint, tuition reform needed to be accompanied by more state spending.  We're familiar with the argument.  As we explained to Chairman Turner, we're sympathetic to the argument, but we need tuition restraints with teeth up-front.  We were about to make a further point about cost controls when...

...John Smithee spoke up.  As the only member of the committee who was in the legislature when the current system passed, Smithee called it "a vote I wish I could have back."  Smithee then made the same points about expensive buildings and excessive bureaucracy this author would have made.

Bottom Line: The breakdown of support/opposition to this bill was very intersting....


Political Note for Republicans: There were (at least) four Democrat bills dealing with tuition on today's docket.  Zero from Republicans.  If you want to know why you're getting killed with the under-40 crowd, that would be a good place to look....

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Good stuff happening all around today!!!

"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

Nothing's done.  And there's a long way to go.  But today must be encouraging.


Citizens Property Tax Rally:

HUNDREDS of taxpayers showed up this afternoon to demand the lege pass the property tax reform package AND come up with a substantial relief package.

Speakers called upon the lege to finish the job on both subjects OR for Governor Abbott to call a special session.

We still suspect this gets done during the regular, but there's a part of us that wants to take this to a special.

What else would Abbott include on the call?!?


House unanimously passes (at least) two GOOD Sexual Assault bills:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  We get it.  This issue has been a political football.

Get over yourself; these are good bills.

HB 8 (Neave) addresses the disgraceful rape kit backlog.  This is a blot on our state.  The bill passed unanimously, as it should have.

HB 1735 (Howard) creates good rules to deal with sexual assault on college campuses.  The language on due process is some of the strongest we've ever seen.  It should be the new national standard.  The bill also creates much better processes for survivors.

We haven't written about this bill (due to time), but we've supported this bill since it came onto our radar screen last month.

The bill passed on a voice vote.

Anyone who has problem with this author supporting a Donna Howard sexual assault bill can step on a Lego.


Senate Passes Ban on Taxpayer Funded Lobbying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's out of a chamber!!!

What else do we need to say?!?


Senate to hear bill on Austin's "Major League" Soccer stadium:

SB 1771 (Bettencourt) would knock out Austin's soccer stadium nonsense, it would also establish a good precedent for other sports stadium giveaways.


Note on the sexual assault bills: The house is passing a whole bunch of bills on the topic today.  We're only familiar with the ones listed above.  We know nothing about the others.


Bottom Line: We still have a long way to go, but there's a lot from today to like....