Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Senate Passes Tax Relief; House Wastes Day (hears shady stuff late)....

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Luke 16:13

(Author's Note: The belated hearing of the Texas House State Affairs Committee can be viewed here.)

Texas State Capitol -- When the Texas House released it's schedule for today, it said the Committee on State Affairs would convene at 10:30 A.M.  The committee was scheduled to hear testimony on four AWFUL bills and one good bill.  We found it strange when we saw the Texas Tribune report that the full house would convene at noon.

As we approached the hearing room, an ideologically sympathetic friend informed this author that state affairs had been delayed until after the full House adjourned from the floor AND that they were going to consider the texting while driving ban.  In other words, the committee hearing was postponed until the end of the floor debate on a controversial topic.  Gotcha.

The state affairs committee was scheduled to hear several bills related to campaign finance and donor privacy.  By scheduling the hearing to commence at 10:30 then scheduling the House to convene at noon to take up a controversial topic, Chairman Byron Cook knew he'd be able to postpone the hearing on the shady legislation until evening.  Byron Cook was making a delay play.

(Sidenote: As we type this sentence, at 8:23 P.M., none of the important bills have even started.)

After a long lunch, we stopped into the House gallery around 12:45pm, where they were passing multiple resolutions honoring firefighters.

Then we decided to check out the Senate!!!

They were talking TAX RELIEF!!!

The Texas Senate was in the process of passing the largest tax cut in Texas' history out of the full chamber.  As part of the process, they were 'hazing' Sen. Paul Bettancourt as he passed his first bill.  Apparently, when a new Texas Senator passes their first bill out of the body, the other Senators ask obnoxious nit-picky questions as a rite of passage.

As we said in a text message:
Everything you need to know about the two houses: Senate debating tax relief; House passing "we love firefighters" resolution.... (12:56 PM)
At 1:22 PM, we returned to the house gallery.  They were beginning to debate the texting ban.  Then we had the amendments.

The House debated over a dozen amendments.  Nothing wrong with that.  It was a lousy bill to begin with, so why not attempt to improve it?!?

But the full House slow walked the amendment process; the only interesting part of this debate was that the Black Democrats and the Tea Party, led by Harold Dutton and Jonathan Stickland, worked together to defeat the bill.

As we said in text messages:
  • It would not surprise me if they keep taking amendments on this texting bill for a couple hours.  (3:20 PM) 
  • They're going slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.  (3:23 PM)
At 4:14 PM, we received an e-mail from the Lt. Governor's Office:

At 5:07 PM, we received another e-mail from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:
TPPF Statement on Passage of Senate Tax-Cut Package

AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Senate passed a tax-cut package, which includes Senate Joint Resolution 1 and its enabling legislation Senate Bill 1, an amended version of Senate Bill 7, and Senate Bill 8.

SJR 1 and SB 1 provide property tax relief by raising the homestead exemption for school districts from $15,000 to 25 percent of the statewide median home value. SB 7 cuts the business margin tax rates by 15 percent and the amendment calls for a study on full repeal of the margin tax with a report due to the Legislature next September. SB 8 raises the revenue exemption level for the margin tax from $1 million to $4 million.

Texas Public Policy Foundation Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for Economic Freedom Bill Peacock issued the following statement:

“Today was a first step in the process of giving Texans badly needed tax cuts,” said Peacock. “The $4.6 billion in property and business tax cuts adopted by the Senate moves us in the right direction. However, we continue to support the complete elimination of the state’s onerous margin tax.”
Around the time we received the e-mail from TPPF, the house voted to pass the texting ban.

That's when this author left the Capitol.

Just before 6PM, Byron Cook called the state affairs hearing (originally scheduled for 10:30 AM) to order.

Then they went through fluff bills for three hours while we wrote this blog entry.

Just fifteen minutes ago, we received a text message:
Marriage up first (8:55 PM)
That's the good bill, which deals with marriage; that means, as we write this sentence at 9:12 PM, the Texas House's State Affairs committee has yet to hear the five AWFUL bills that restrict your first amendment, campaign finance, and donor privacy rights.

To summarize today in the Texas Legislature: Dan Patrick's Senate passed record tax relief.  Joe Straus' House passed frivious nanny state regulations.  As you read this (Straus lieutenant) Byron's Cook is attempting to curtail your first amendment and donor privacy rights under the cover of night.

Chairman Byron Cook: (512) 463-0370

Watch the hearing livestream here.


Update (3/26/2015, 9:16 AM): The hearing was still going on when this author fell asleep around 1;30 AM last night.

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