Thursday, March 31, 2016

Texas Senate considers New EMINENT DOMAIN RESTRICTIONS!!!

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

Some good news:
AUSTIN — Lawmakers fielded suggestions Tuesday on how to prevent entities from “low-balling” landowners with poor financial compensation when seizing property through the power of eminent domain.


Entities that seize land are required to pay fairly for it, but the initial offers made aren’t always fair or appropriate, said Judon Fambrough, attorney and senior lecturer at the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center.

If landowners don’t appeal or try to negotiate, Fambrough said, they may never know they didn’t get paid fairly.

Fambrough proposed several recommendations to the Senate State Affairs Committee, including requiring that entities seeking to condemn properties pay the landowner’s legal fees if their final offer is a certain percentage higher than their initial offer.

“The statutes to me don’t have the right teeth in it,” Fambrough told senators.


Lawmakers also pressed a representative from the Texas Department of Transportation about the agency’s involvement with the Houston-Dallas high-speed rail project.

The project and the private firm developing the rail have come under fire since they will be able to use eminent domain to build the rail.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

STICKLAND discusses Texas House's State of Play

"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



  • "Most of our wins came before a vote was even cast."
    • Keffer, Otto, Harless, et. al....
  • Conservatives +1 pending runoffs.
  • 7 runoffs; 6 with solid conservatives running.
  • Cain, King, Biedermann, Keating, Hefner, Strahan, 
  • Jonathan Boos' race -- Only 39% of voters in his race were in his data.

The path towards MEANINGFUL Property Tax RELIEF....

"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

We would hasten to add that the appraisal system needs to be addressed, but this is a good start from Empower Texans:
First, property tax limits need to be strengthened.

In 2015, reformers in the Senate sought to do two things—lower the annual rate at which local governments can increase their coffers (also known as the rollback rate), and require local voter approval for governments seeking to break that limit.

Local governments, their tax-funded lobbyists, and their associations came out in fierce opposition. Unsurprisingly, too many local officials oppose the idea of having to obtain voter approval to raise property taxes. So much for believing in “local control.”


Second, tax reform should also involve limits on local spending growth.

Houston voters petitioned for and passed a charter amendment limiting the annual increase in property tax revenue, otherwise known as the revenue cap. But the city found a way to circumvent voters—they simply created new taxes not subject to the cap. As a result of ignoring glaring fiscal problems, the big-spending city is in financial trouble.


Finally, Texas’ debt epidemic must be addressed.

Voters should be given basic financial information on the ballot, such as the current debt of the asking entity, the total cost of the ballot proposition including both principal and interest expense, and the resulting impact on property tax rates if the measure is approved or rejected.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Austin City Council resumes ECONOMIC DESTRUCTION WARPATH....

"And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 25:30

At last Thursday's meeting, council took two GROTESQUELY AWFUL actions that can only hurt our most vulnerable residents.

First, what started as a laudable effort to 'ban the box' went HORRIBLY awry:
The Austin City Council voted 8-2 Thursday night to pass the “fair chance hiring” ordinance championed by Council Member Greg Casar, which prevents companies from asking applicants to check a box on a job application if they have a criminal history. Council Members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voted no, while Council Member Sheri Gallo was absent from the meeting.

The ordinance applies to employers with at least 15 workers. Those companies may refuse to hire a person based on his or her criminal history only after considering the “nature and gravity” of the offense, the length of time that has passed since the offense and the scope of the job the person wants.


Roberta Schwartz, a vice president with Goodwill Central Texas, said the nonprofit objected to the ordinance — even though Goodwill hires employees with criminal records. It could be “devastating” for applicants to go through a long hiring process, get a conditional job offer and then be turned away because of a former offense, Schwartz said.

“That’s the kind of thing that makes you just throw your hands up and say, ‘I might as well just go back to jail,’” said Schwartz, who said she has a criminal record.

Council Member Don Zimmerman said there are other private employers in Austin who, like Goodwill, have chosen to move background checks later in the hiring process.

“They’re already doing it without mandates. They say … we object to the mandates,” Zimmerman said.

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce estimated the measure could affect at least 5,000 local businesses. Jose Carrillo, the chamber’s vice president of regional business advocacy, urged the council to delay action and to consider allowing a background check after an initial interview, which he said is the practice in Seattle and San Francisco.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair asked Casar if he would consider that change, but Casar declined.
In other words, it's still ok to not hire someone with a criminal background, but now council is making a potential employer string the applicant along for days (if not weeks) rather than allowing them to be direct.  People with criminal backgrounds will still have trouble finding work, but now employers will have to go through a burdensome and costly process to reach that decision.  This is the worst of all possible worlds.

Fortunately Matt Rinaldi noticed, and we will support any efforts he takes in this area next session:

Austin City Council passes an ordinance effectively requiring private businesses to interview criminals. Looks like we will have more municipal overreach to address next legislative session.
Posted by Matt Rinaldi on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The awfulness didn't stop there:
City subcontractors – such as airport food vendors and construction workers – will now be paid $13.03 an hour after City Council extended the city’s living wage requirements on Thursday to everyone working on a city contract.

Two ordinances that closed the loophole that left subcontractors out of previously passed living wage requirements passed on 8-2 votes, with Council members Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman opposed and Sheri Gallo absent.


The ordinance was one of several proposed by Council Member Greg Casar meant to address employment in Austin. After hearing from Gutierrez – who was flanked at the podium by supporters – Casar said the measures particularly would help the “working-class community” in his own District 4.
Of course, the end result is $0 per hour when politicians price jobs out of existence.

But it gets better; while it doesn't come directly from Council, a city board has just invented "wage waivers":
Capital Metro Gives Developer a “Wage Waiver,” (A New Breed of Fee Waiver)

Capital Metro and the Endeavor Real Estate Group negotiated a deal for the construction of the 10-acre Plaza Saltillo development downtown. When the dust settled after Tuesday night’s board meeting, the developer walked away winning their original offer of $11.39 per hour minimum wage for the workers. And yet the workers won also, because they will be getting paid $13.03 per hour. That’s because Capital Metro agreed to “share” part of the difference with money that would otherwise belong to the taxpayers. The shared portion will be 50% of the wage increase The net taxpayer loss is estimated to be $1.05 million.


The worst thing about this first “wage waiver” is the dangerous precedent. $1.05 million is “only a little bit of money” out of a big contract. But what about the next contract and the one after that? Every developer that goes into a construction and lease deal will want the same thing. Think about the massive complex of buildings being planned for the land owned by Central Health. What we witnessed this week was the opening of Pandora’s Box.
Bottom Line: Kudos to Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair for standing firm against this insanity (remember, this nonsense used to pass unanimously). They need re-enforcements.  In the meantime, however, congratulations to the council majority for making life more difficult for ex-cons and restricting economic opportunity for low-income Austinites while accomplishing NOTHING positive in return.

"Campus Carry" drives away ANOTHER LEFTIST Academic!!!

"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

This is a feature, not a bug:
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a finalist for deanship of the Moody College of Communication, took himself out of the running in response to the University’s decision on campus carry.

Vaidhyanathan became one of several faculty members who has turned down or left UT at least in part due to the passage of Senate Bill 11, which allows anyone with a concealed handgun license (CHL) to carry their handgun on college campuses. Among these is architecture dean Frederick Steiner, who cited the new law among his reasons for leaving UT in an interview with the Texan earlier this month.

As a UT alumnus, Vaidhyanathan said working for the University would’ve been a “dream job” — but when President Fenves released his Feb. 17 statement on UT’s implementation of S.B. 11, Vaidhyanathan reconsidered. According to the statement, professors would be unable to ban guns from their classrooms. If put in a situation requiring him to discipline a professor for violating this rule, Vaidhyanathan said he’d be unwilling to make that call.

“I would have to side with the professor and therefore violate state law,” Vaidhyanathan said. “That would mean I’d be fired pretty quickly, I wasn’t going to put myself or my family in that situation.”

Along with concerns about students having firearms during heated class discussions, Vaidhyanathan said he thinks campus carry limits a professor’s autonomy.


Neuroscience professor Max Snodderly, a member of Gun Free UT, said that, beyond campus carry’s effect on faculty, he was frustrated at the government’s decision to pass the law in the face of collegiate opposition.

“It’s insulting behavior on the part of the legislature since they’ve been told by every academic constituency, ‘we don’t want it,’ and they do it anyway,” Snodderly said.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: While it's fun to watch these people lose their minds over such a minor issue, imagine how much better it would be if Team Straus hadn't watered down the bill last session....

Monday, March 28, 2016

PIO RENTERIA now facing MULTIPLE additional VIOLATIONS....

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
Matthew 7:5

"RULE 4: Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."
Saul Alinsky

The city’s Code Department has identified two violations at Austin City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria’s home in East Austin, which the city said stemmed from a patio cover and a storage structure.


The department mailed notices of violation to the property owners, Sabino Renteria and Lori Cervenak-Renteria, on March 16. The owners have 14 days to come into compliance, and, if they do, the case will be closed, Alvarado said.


Coming into compliance for an unpermitted structure would mean obtaining a building permit, which requires a successful inspection, Alvarado said. As for the setback violations, the owners could move the storage structure or seek a variance from the city.

Failing to come into compliance could bring fines of up to $2,000 per day per violation.


Renteria also faces the ethics complaint filed last month by the owner of a vacation rental management company, who alleged Renteria should refrain from voting on new regulations for short-term rentals, as he has rented out the garage apartment in his backyard. The city’s Ethics Review Commission is slated to hear that complaint April 13.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: Considering that Pio Renteria didn't support Don Zimmerman's attempt to reign in code compliance last year, it's particularly satisfying to watch this hypocrite get nailed....

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reporting on the Parables....

Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country."
Mark 12:1

Reprinted in full from ICR this morning:
This parable of the vineyard had an obvious meaning, for even “the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders” to whom He was speaking (Mark 11:27) “knew that he had spoken the parable against them” (Mark 12:12). The same parable and the events surrounding it are reported in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-16.
But there is another question that has been raised about this parable, as well as all the other parables that have been reported in two or more different gospels. That is, if the Bible is inerrant in its very words as Jesus taught (e.g., Matthew 5:18John 10:35), then why did the writers often vary in their reporting of the words of the parable?
It should be remembered, however, that Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, whereas the written accounts were in Greek. Furthermore, two of the writers (Mark and Luke) were not present at the time, so would have to obtain their accounts from someone who was there (e.g., Luke 1:1-2). Flexibility in translation and reporting is always possible with different translators and different reporters.
The doctrine of divine inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), however, applies not to the process but to the result. The Spirit of God was free to use the writer’s own research, vocabulary, and style in reporting an event, so long as there were no factual errors or irrelevancies in the final result. In fact, such minor differences often give greater depth and credence to the reported event since they help in proving that the different writers were not in collusion but simply telling of a real event from different perspectives. HMM

Friday, March 25, 2016

Once again, Paxton backs HIGHER ED TRANSPARENCY!!!

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong."
1 Corinthians 16:13

Good to see:
Attorney General Ken Paxton has once again thrown his support behind University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall’s efforts to receive records, including confidential student information, from an investigation into favoritism in admissions at the Austin campus. 
Paxton recently filed a brief asking the 3rd Court of Appeals to reinstate Hall’s lawsuit, which was thrown out by a Travis County judge in December, prompting an immediate appeal by Hall. Paxton also asked the appeals court to order UT to provide the records to Hall. 
“A regent’s access to university records must be absolute,” Paxton said in the friend-of-the-court brief filed last week but made public Tuesday.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Paxton: 1, Bulls**t: 0

"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

'Bout DADGUM Time:
A grand jury in Collin County has voted to take no action on its investigation into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s role in a 2004 land deal involving the eventual site of the Collin County Appraisal District, special prosecutors and Paxton’s attorneys said today.

Defense attorney Bill Mateja of Polsinelli law firm in Dallas said that throughout the process, Paxton and his legal team were confident that the grand jury would take no action regarding the real estate transaction and would not refer the matter to the District Attorney’s Office.

“We would like to thank the special prosecutors for their diligence in reviewing all aspects of this matter and for reaching out to General Paxton to obtain his cooperation in their investigation,” Mateja said in a prepared statement.

In January, the grand jury confirmed an investigation into Paxton’s role as the member of a limited liability company that owned land eventually sold to the county for the appraisal district headquarters building.

Paxton and his attorneys have said that he had no part in the sale or a prior rezoning of the land to pave the way for the project.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cook attempting to REPEAL FIRST AMENDMENT (Again!)

"They sharpen their tongues like a serpent;
The poison of asps is under their lips."
Psalm 140:3

We had intended to discuss this, but Watchdog beat us to the punch:
State Rep. Byron Cook, who came within 222 votes of being booted from office by his own party’s primary voters this month, is back at work on what has become his signature issue: regulating the political speech of Texans.

Cook told the Houston Chronicle that he’s planning to propose an amendment to the state Constitution that could threaten every political group in the state with penalties.

That’s not quite how he put it — the Chronicle paraphrases his idea as requiring “politically active nonprofits to reveal their donors.” However, Cook’s past efforts on this issue reach far beyond nonprofit corporations to affect the speech rights of informal groups of two or more people involved in just about anything that could be deemed “political.”

There’s little question that Cook is targeting Empower Texans, a conservative group that holds lawmakers accountable for votes to raise taxes or increase spending. Cook and his patron, Speaker Joe Straus, have been fighting Empower Texans for years.

The amendment would have almost no chance of becoming law. As chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, Cook could send a bill to the floor, but a constitutional amendment would need two-thirds support in both chambers before going to voters.


Gov. Greg Abbott referred to that ruling in a statement last year on Cook’s efforts to impose new speech regulations.

“As a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, I wrote that laws like that are unconstitutional and I based that decision on United States Supreme Court decisions,” he said.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

$620 MILLION for Travis County Expo Center?!?

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

GADZOOKS; from Austin Affordability:

Are You Ready for This?

There is a Britney Spears slot machine in Las Vegas where she struts across the screen offering a bonus prize and asks, “Are you ready for this?” Well, ready or not, here comes something that is not nearly as much fun. In fact, I’d say this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
$620 million for a new Travis County Expo Center!
$620 million for a new Travis County Expo Center!
Yes, you read that right – a price tag that is over twice as high as the failed bond proposition for a new civil and family courthouse! You can see the high cost estimate that totals up to $620 million in this PDF from Page 33 of the County’s draft report. There may be some lower estimates out there in Consultant-ville, but why not factor in the highest estimate and assume that the routine cost overruns will hit that amount in the long run?
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Texas' State/Local PROPERTY TAX Shell Game

"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

New, from Watchdog:
A new report applauds the Texas Legislature for cutting taxes (*), but local governments and schools are wiping out the reductions with increased spending and debt.


“There’s a disconnect — aggressive tax cuts at the state level, with out-of-control spending at the local level,” Williams told in an interview.

Last November, Texas voters ratified a Legislature-approved expansion of the state’s homestead exemption. But the $10,000 increase provides little shelter from rapidly escalating local property taxes, among the highest in the nation.

In Dallas, city tax collections increased 38 percent over the past decade – nearly 10 times faster than its population. The operating budget has risen 25 percent during the past three years.

In Austin, the median property tax bill jumped 50 percent since 2009.


Texas taxpayers shoulder the second-highest local debt, on a per-capita basis, among the nation’s 10 largest states. Roughly two-thirds of Texas’ $330 billion local debt load comes from school districts.

Last year, Houston’s public pension debt surpassed Detroit’s – a city that has declared bankruptcy.
Read the whole thing here.


* Author's Note: And they could have done A LOT more there.

#HookEmCommonSense: Ami Pedahzur VINDICATED!!!

"Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."
Romans 13:7

We reported last fall on the anti-Semitic lynch mob that wreaked havoc in the classroom of an Israeli UT professor.  A week later, we discussed how we were cautiously optimistic about the administration's response.  Well, credit where it's due, the final investigation has fully absolved the professor:
The university, however, undertook a lengthy investigation spearheaded by its Office for Inclusion and Equity, whose investigators interviewed 18 witnesses and reviewed the video. Its verdict: Pedahzur's conduct and remarks did not violate the university's polices concerning harassment and discrimination. Since the incident last November 13, Pedahzur's career had been under a cloud. He had to hire a lawyer.

University spokesman have declined to say if Nabulsi and his cohorts are facing disciplinary actions for making false accusations; state and federal privacy statues prevent them from doing so. But in reading between the lines, it can be inferred that the dean of student's office is now dealing with the matter.

Let's hope that the backbone demonstrated by professors and administrators at the University of Texas will set a precedent for how universities ought to deal with leftist bullies.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Revelation 3:7-9 -- The FAITHFUL Church (Part 1)

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:  “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you."
Revelation 3:7-9

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  June, 22 2014:

  1. Identification (v. 7)
    A. Angel/Pastor
    B. Church
    C. City (Brotherly Love)
    D. Jesus
         i. Holy One.
            - 1 Peter 1:15
        ii. True
       iii. Key of David
            - Isaiah 22:22
        iv. He opens doors and closes doors.
  2. Commendation (v. 8)
    A. Works
    B. Open Door
         - Colossians 4:2-3
         - 1 Corinthians 16:9
    C. Little Strength
    D. Obedience
    E. Faithfulness
  3. Exaltation (v. 9)
  • Jesus has no complaints about the Church at Philadelphia.
  • Sometimes God doesn't make sense, but God's smarter than us, so we should obey Him.
  • More mistakes are made by speed than sloth.
  • Church at Philadelphia probably founded by Paul
  • Only one world religion is founded by someone with perfect holiness.
  • "People are still hungry for Bible teaching."
  • "When Jesus opens a door, you need to walk through it."
    • Likewise, when Jesus closes a door, don't try to force it.
  • "If God is in it, then guess what: It'll happen!!!"
  • "God is attracted to weakness."
  • God often bypasses the wealthiest and prettiest because they think they don't need Him.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Radical Hormone Therapy is BAD for Children....

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7

Gee...ya think?!?

Gender Ideology Harms Children

The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.
1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of health – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sexual differentiation (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs do not constitute a third sex.
2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward. People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.
3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). The psychodynamic and social learning theories of GD/GID have never been disproved.
4. Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous. Reversible or not, puberty- blocking hormones induce a state of disease – the absence of puberty – and inhibit growth and fertility in a previously biologically healthy child.
5. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.
6. Children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer.
7. Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT – affirming countries. What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate knowing that after puberty as many as 88% of girls and 98% of boys will eventually accept reality and achieve a state of mental and physical health?
8. Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.
Michelle A. Cretella, M.D.
President of the American College of Pediatricians
Quentin Van Meter, M.D.
Vice President of the American College of Pediatricians
Pediatric Endocrinologist
Paul McHugh, M.D.
University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Obviously, the rainbow lynch mob is going to come after them, but in the meantime it's refreshing to see a modest amount of sanity break out....

Friday, March 18, 2016

Annise Parker's FINAL (*) INDIGNATION: Houston Gets DOWNGRADED

"The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7

(*) -- Hoperfully

Following the ruinous fiscal legacy of the former mayor, the inevitable finally happened:
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the City of Houston's (TX) general obligation limited tax rating to Aa3 from Aa2, affecting approximately $3 billion in previously issued bonds. Concurrently, Moody's assigns a Aa3 to the City of Houston, TX's $600 million Public Improvement Refunding Bonds, Series 2016A. The outlook remains negative.

The downgrade to Aa3 reflects weakening economic and financial performance driven by prolonged decreases in oil prices. It also reflects the city's high fixed costs, large unfunded pension liabilities (among the highest in the nation), as well as property tax caps.

The Aa3 also considers recent positive General Fund performance, and growth in non-energy sectors that has offset some of the softening. Additionally, the rating recognizes the positive actions taken by the new Mayor and his plan to engage several stakeholders to modify the city's fixed costs and generate additional revenues, all within the next 18 to 24 months. These plans signal a change from past initiatives, and positive movement on the plans will be key to stabilizing the credit profile.
TPPF has more:
"Moody’s downgrade of Houston is the latest in a series of troubling fiscal incidents that, show how urgently reform is needed. Houston’s booming economy has helped mask the city’s spending and pension problems for a long time. But the city’s big-spending ways can no longer be ignored. It is time that the city got a handle on spending and put its fiscal house in order."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Juliet Garcia: Meet UT's Newest $300k+ BUREAUCRAT!!!

So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:21

On February 29th, U.T. got their tuition hike; on March 9th, they announced the following hire:

Juliet Garcia to join UT System as advisor on community, national and global engagement

AUSTIN—Former UT Brownsville President Juliet Garcia will join The University of Texas System as senior advisor to the Chancellor for community, national and global engagement, Chancellor William H. McRaven announced today.
In this new position, Garcia will work as an ambassador, participating with leaders and organizations throughout Texas, the nation and internationally to convey, clarify and advocate for the UT System and the Chancellor’s priorities.  
“Dr. Garcia is a nationally recognized thought leader in higher education and beyond. We are delighted to have her voice when working with organizations and associations to advance our mission and explore opportunities for the UT System to lead,” McRaven said.
Garcia served as president of UT Brownsville for 22 years and was integral in the creation of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
She became the first female Mexican-American president of a college or university in 1986 and has devoted her life’s work to public service. Under her leadership, UT Brownsville more than doubled in size and produced 35,000 college graduates. In 2009, Time magazine named Garcia one of the top 10 college presidents in the nation, and in 2014 she was named one of the top 50 world leaders by Fortune magazine.
Just for fun, we put in an open records request to the system for all contracts related to the hire; earlier this week, they sent us the following letter from the chancellor:

Bottom Line: It's good to know that an organization that cries poverty when raising tuition for students has no problem coming up with more than a quarter million dollars for yet another "Senior Advisor"....

Pio Renteria receives ETHICS COMPLAINT over #STR Conflict of Interest

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

[Author's Note: It's worth reminding readers that we are a resident of Council Member Renteria's district.]

In a development that should surprise no-one, the anti-property rights bloc on the Austin City Council believes in short-term leases for me, but not for thee:
The owner of a short-term rental business has filed an ethics complaint against City Council Member Pio Renteria, alleging that he violated city conflict-of-interest rules by pushing for an ordinance approved last month that will eventually phase out short-term rental units in Austin that are not owner-occupied, otherwise known as Type 2 STRs.

Thomas J. Clark, CEO of TurnKey Vacation Rentals, argues in the complaint he filed last month with the city’s Ethics Review Commission that Renteria’s ownership of a Type 1 STR unit – meaning it is owner-occupied – presented a clear conflict of interest.

“It really is a direct conflict for him to be ruling on and advocating against Type 2s,” Clark told the Austin Monitor on Tuesday. “If he remained an active operator for a Type 1, that helps him.”

The Ethics Review Commission was scheduled to hold a preliminary hearing on the matter during its March 9 meeting but postponed it until its next meeting, on April 13, because Renteria was out of town at a conference. Renteria was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but spokesman Nick Solorzano said that the Council member intended to show up and contest the complaint.

The property in question is a one-bedroom home that has been listed by Renteria and his wife, Lori, on popular STR site Airbnb since January 2012. At one point, at least, the couple marketed the home to South by Southwest visitors. “SXSW Cottage – Smoking allowed!” said the listing.

Clark also alleges in his complaint that Renteria did not register the STR until 2014 and therefore did not pay the required fees and taxes during the two previous years of operation.

Clark filed the original complaint on Feb. 18, five days before Council voted 9-2 to adopt the short-term rental ordinance. At the time, Clark contended that Renteria’s public advocacy on the issue in the months prior to the ordinance’s adoption were a violation of the city’s ethics ordinance.

Not only did Renteria vote to adopt the final ordinance on Feb. 23 that phased out Type 2 STRs, but during the discussion that day, he voted to kill an amendment to an ordinance proposed by Mayor Steve Adler that would have prevented a total phase-out. Adler’s amendment failed, 5-6. Had Renteria recused himself from the vote, the amendment still would have failed, since it needed a majority to pass.

But Clark argues that Renteria’s participation still influenced the outcome. “I think the vote should be voided,” he said. “He skewed the entire process, and I think they should start over.”

Solorzano said Renteria had rented out his property on only a few occasions in order to make enough money to pay increasingly high property taxes. He has not rented out the property since March 2015, before the debate over STRs began, and he does not intend to do so again, said Solorzano.

“It was never a money-making thing for him – it was just to pay his taxes,” he said. “He does not intend to use it that way anymore.”

Solorzano added that he was confident the commission would understand that. “We think it’s pretty open and shut,” he said about the complaint.

Solorzano declined to comment on whether Renteria may have violated city ordinance by operating the STR between 2012 and 2014 without a license, saying he was unfamiliar with the details of his boss’s rental history.

Detailing Election Irregularities in Texas' 2016 Primary

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

From Laura Pressley:
Breaking News for 2016 Primaries:  Similar Illegalities and serious election irregularities, that occurred in Pressley's election, recently recurred in Texas counties during the 2016 Primaries. 
  • Hart InterCivic electronic voting machines, used in over 100 counties in Texas, do not store ballot images as required by law for recounts, 
  • Poll Watchers witnessed more corruption errors on main tabulation computers on election night, 
  • Texas Secretary of State's Election Division issued waivers for counties to not print backup/results tapes for Early Voting and Election Day before equipment left the polling places, 
  • Secretary of State's Election Division issued waivers to all 254 Texas counties to not audit paper ballot results, 
  • Poll watchers were obstructed from monitoring main tabulation computers on Election Day, 
  • A county refused to post precinct results and attempted to charge a fee for official precinct level Early and Election Day voting results as required by law, and 
  • Votes were flipped on computer screens.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Meet Texas' Largest CORPORATE WELFARE program you've never heard of....

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

Did you know local school districts can give massive tax abatements to politically connected corporations while having the state make up the difference?!?  (Neither did we):
Property taxes are the largest source of funding for Texas public schools, and big industrial projects can add lots of new money to the school system quickly. Annova’s LNG terminal alone would be worth more than the tax base of one-quarter of Texas school districts. Companies pay most of their tax bill to the local school districts. For certain big projects, though, districts can forgive most of that sum using the Texas Economic Development Act, a 15-year-old program that’s often known by its place in the tax code, Chapter 313. That program actually makes it worthwhile for school districts to give away millions in tax revenue.

Under the law, if a school district grants a tax break for a desirable new project, the state is obliged to cover the difference. The cost of the deal comes out of the state budget. In its application to Point Isabel ISD, Annova said its terminal would be valued at $1.4 billion, but wanted the school district to pretend for the next 10 years that it was worth just $25 million. The tax break, Annova told the district, would be “a key component” in its decision to build. In fact, as local activists learned, the whole point of the Chapter 313 program was to lure business to Texas that might go elsewhere. If the school board rejected Annova’s deal, maybe the company really would pack up and leave. The school board vote, then, wasn’t going to be just another sternly worded resolution — it could be, locals hoped, the Achilles’ heel that could kill the project for good.

Residents knew they had momentum on their side, having won over so many other local officials. But as they had recently learned, schools hardly ever say no to a Chapter 313 deal. No district had ever rejected one this big. In fact, the program is built to encourage schools to give away the state’s money. Schools have no incentive to reject a deal, and often gain millions by handing out tax breaks.


In most cases, Chapter 313 deals are both a windfall for companies and a way for school districts to turn a neat profit. When districts sign away millions in corporate tax breaks, the state of Texas pays them back and lets them negotiate side deals with the company worth millions more. The rationale behind these generous terms is to lure big capital-intensive projects to Texas when corporate honchos are considering other states. Companies must pledge to create a certain number of high-paying jobs, and claim that the tax break is “a determining factor” in their decision to build in Texas.

The scale of Chapter 313 dwarfs its better-known counterparts, the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund. Those two programs came under scrutiny in recent years as reporters and legislators found evidence that the governor had used them as slush funds for his friends. But at least those programs had a limit. Since 2003, the Legislature has spent $781 million from the two funds, which is $43 million less than Chapter 313 will cost the state in the next two years.
It's a lengthy article, but seriously, read the whole thing here.


One more gem:
As a job creation program, Chapter 313 has been incredibly costly too — as of 2013, each job credited to a 313 project cost the state $350,000, well more than any other program the state runs.

Finally, kudos to the Governor:
Last session, the Legislature even tried to expand the program with a bill that would have cost an extra $50 million every year. Governor Greg Abbott vetoed it, writing that “while the program may sometimes have a positive impact on local economic development, serious concerns exist about its oversight, its transparency, and its value to the taxpayers.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Next Great #SxSW Swindle

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

From the Guardian:
Very quietly, and a little secretly, an unprecedented gathering of American mayors has arrived in Austin, Texas.

Twenty mayors, from Kansas City, Sacramento, Portland, Albuquerque, Baltimore and elsewhere, have been drawn here to the SXSW festival, though most have a packed schedule that is closed to journalists and the public. Amazon; Google; Austin’s HomeAway vacation rentals firm; and Maven, General Motors’ ride-sharing service, have been privately pitching to them. They’ve held a little startup shark tank. They’re touring new designs for space-efficient housing and hearing about surveillance technology.

Government has been a hot topic throughout the annual technology conference in Austin. It’s the first time a sitting president has visited, and the event comes at a time when the FBI-Apple debate is stirring tension between civic offices and tech companies. Tech companies seeking to get around regulation are also noticing just how much trouble a mayor can cause.

Over a cocktail reception at city hall, the mayors talked about how to attract engineers to their cities, how to negotiate with union-resistant startups, and what they can do to get Google Fiber to pick them.

“First of all, we’ve all been wanting to come to South By for a while, and this is a great excuse,” said Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. “And then there’s just the reality: the biggest problems just can’t be solved without tech right now.”


A lot of this, Stanton said, comes down to “coolness”. “The game is talent – a place like Austin built a brand that’s cool. Phoenix is cool, too.”

At the private mayoral shark tank, Stanton sat with his 20 fellow mayors over breakfast burritos and coffee and listened as startups gave their all, hoping to score lucrative city contracts.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Actions have Consequences: TUITION DEREG REPEAL Returns!!!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7

Unfortunately, UT got their tuition hike; now, the fallout begins:
It's been over a year since I first wrote about the regrettable impact tuition deregulation has had on the cost of higher education in Texas, and against my sincerest hopes, all we've gotten is a year older. Despite significant increases in state funding last session, Texas colleges and universities continue to impose ever-increasing tuition and fee hikes on students as the simplest method of expanding their already-substantial operating budgets.

Recently, the University of Texas Board of Regents announced tuition and fee increases for nearly all system schools beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year — an announcement that happened to coincide with the board’s decision to pay six-figure bonuses to several top-level administrators. The average resident undergraduate at UT-Austin can now expect to pay $304 more than last year, and they’re not alone. Those at Texas A&M University will pay an additional $208 per year in new tuition and fees, and students at the University of Houston will see their costs rise by $208 as well — a number that doesn't even include all mandatory fees.

These tuition increases have not gone unnoticed by members of the Texas Legislature. On March 1, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger sent a letter to the leaders of our state's public universities, asking them to explain the rationale behind these tuition hikes, and provide specific financial data supporting their necessity. As Patrick and Seliger state in their letter, "These increases combined with excessive bonus programs, indicate that our state universities have lost sight of their primary mission to provide a high quality education at an affordable cost to Texas families."


Last session, I filed Senate Bill 233, the Higher Education Accountability Reform (HEAR) Act, to bring these rising costs under control and return a measure of accountability to our institutions of higher education. Though ultimately unsuccessful, this legislation would have capped annual increases on tuition and fees at no more than the rate of inflation, keeping the cost of higher education within reach for the average Texas family. The idea behind this straightforward, fiscally responsible proposal comes from a familiar place: the Texas Constitution.

In addition to requiring the state Legislature to pass a balanced budget every two years, the Texas Constitution also includes a "spending cap" provision that prevents state spending from increasing faster than the state's economic growth. This provision forces the Legislature to appropriately prioritize the needs of Texans and manage our state's limited resources without depending on new tax increases year after year.

Our institutions of higher education, on the other hand, are governed by no such spending cap. As a result, public colleges and universities routinely approve new programs and spending on the backs of students without soberly assessing whether these new priorities truly align with the mission of educating the next generation of Texas leaders.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. But unless our public universities are faced with the necessity of reducing costs, they will never be appropriately motivated to combat wasteful spending, address administrative bloat or find new ways to keep college affordable for students. The issue is simply a matter of priorities — a commonsense understanding of the difference between wants and needs.
Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Revelation 3:1-6 -- The DEAD Church (Part 2)

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
Revelation 3:1-6

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church. June 15, 2014:

  1. Commands (vv. 2-3)
    A. Be Watchful
    B. Strengthen that which remains.
    C. Remember the Basics
    D. Hold fast and be faithful
    E. Repent perpetually in Sanctification
  2. Promises (vv. 4-5)
    A. Negative -- If you don't repent, Jesus will rebuke you.
    B. 3 Positive
         i. They will walk with Him in white.
        ii.  Jesus will not blot out their names from the Book of Life.
       iii,  Jesus will confess their name.
  • The city of Sardis was captured because the people had fallen asleep.
    • Hobby Lobby and Pastor Saeed as examples of awake people.
  • "We tied a knot in the rope of Faith and held on."
  • "If they won't come to your church, bring your church to them."
  • To know what is right, but not not do it and compromise: "is very dangerous."
  • "I'm telling you: REPENT, turn towards Jesus Christ and He will do ABSOLUTE miracles in your life."

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Texas' COMPROMISED Elections

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

From Senator Hall:
Texas election laws are not being followed in many counties. Without this consistency, and with the "it's the way we do it" attitude, this has greatly opened the door to fraud. The true intent of the Legislature was to ensure voter integrity at the highest expectation is achieved. Unwarranted waivers allowing election officials to ignore law that was intended to protect the integrity of elections and a blatant disregard for the intent of the legislature is creating unprecedented opportunity for voting fraud in Texas.

Because current Texas election practices and procedures are inconsistent, it is not possible to truthfully validate any election result or conduct a legally sufficient ballot recount in the Texas counties where “electronic” voting, without a paper trail, is being allowed. The procedures for assuring vote integrity, which are clearly stated in the Texas Constitution and Texas Election Code are not being followed.

Texas election laws mandate a system of checks and balances that include paper and electronic tabulation of election results when the polls open and close to prevent fraud and corruption of votes cast electronically. Specifically, Chapters 65 and 66 of the Texas Election Code provide that when polls close, precinct election returns (Results/Tally tapes) are to be printed, signed, and distributed into official election envelopes at the polling location, prior to the equipment leaving the building.


Currently, there are at least four different procedures being followed throughout Texas with regard to retention of paper backup election records for electronic voting. Many counties conduct precinct level voting.

Some of these counties print the tapes and some do not. Likewise, there are counties using countywide voting locations. Some of them print tapes and some do not. Without the printed tapes there is no way to validate the computerized election results. These inconsistencies in election record retention are breeding ground for election fraud and is an unacceptable practice for anyone who believes in the rule of law. Unfortunately many of these inconsistencies are driven by waiver letters, which direct counties to ignore the above election laws. These waivers are being provided by the Texas Secretary of State’s Election Division Office.


Regardless if Texas counties use precinct voting locations or countywide voting locations, all Texas counties should consistently instruct their election judges to a) print and sign Zero Tapes when the polls open for early voting and on election day, and b) print and sign precinct returns (audit tapes/Tally/Results tapes) directly when the polls close at the polling location, when the polls close for early voting and on election day.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s office should cease issuing waivers that instruct county election officials to operate elections unlawfully and in an inconsistent manner across the state. Vote integrity is one of the most sacred responsibilities of our government. Without integrity, we have no legitimate government.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Attempting to further unpack screwy election results....

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
Psalms 46:10

[Author's Note: This report incorrectly lists the date of the runoff as May 7th.  May 7th is the date LOCAL elections are held. The correct date for the primary runoff  is May 24th.]

KVUE had a excellent report Wednesday night detailing some of the strange results from this latest primary:

  • TCRP denounces Morrow.
  • Brent Webster came in second to Richard Walker, who was listed on the ballot as "Scott Walker."
  • "Statistics favor the first name on a list of two unknowns."
    • Can be worth as much as four points.

Paxton and Cruz's MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL staff shakeup!!!

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

[Author's Note: Enjoy the Texas Observer's conniption fit over Jeff Mateer here.]

Wasn't expecting this:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the appointment of Jeff Mateer as First Assistant Attorney General. Mateer replaces Chip Roy, who resigned to pursue other endeavors.

“The addition of Jeff Mateer as First Assistant Attorney General will have immediate impact on the agency with positive long-term effects that will strengthen our work for Texas for generations,” stated Ken Paxton. “Jeff brings a wealth of real-world experience as a seasoned trial and appellate attorney with broad and varied litigation experience spanning over 25 years of legal practice.”

“I am honored that General Paxton has chosen me to lead in the Attorney General’s office at this critical time in Texas,” Jeff Mateer said. “I look forward to working with General Paxton in defending Texas and protecting our state from a far too often overreaching federal government.”

For the past six years, Mateer served as General Counsel of First Liberty Institute, a national religious liberty law firm, where he oversaw and directed its legal team. Prior to joining First Liberty Institute, Mateer was in private litigation practice with the Dallas law firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP and subsequently small litigation boutique firms for nearly two decades.


During his career, Mateer has represented clients ranging from large international organizations to local businesses, schools, ministries, churches and individuals in complex federal and state court actions involving religious liberty, civil rights, employment, intellectual property and business matters. He has tried numerous jury and bench trials in both federal and state courts, and has successfully argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Texas appellate courts.

Mateer received his undergraduate education at Dickinson College, where he graduated with honors in 1987, and his legal education at Southern Methodist University, where he graduated with honors in 1990. He is licensed to practice law by the state of Texas and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, and all Texas state and federal district courts.

Chip Roy served the Attorney General’s office for the past 15 months. Under his leadership, Mr. Roy oversaw nine lawsuits against the Obama administration, championed the work of the attorney general for Texas House Bill 2, and helped lead the fight against human trafficking in Texas.
Which begs the next question: What exactly is Chip Roy going to do?!?
The Trusted Leadership PAC, a super PAC created to consolidate support for the candidacy of Senator Ted Cruz for President, today announced that Chip Roy is joining the team as its Executive Director.

Roy served as Chief of Staff to Senator Cruz during Cruz’s first two years as Senator, from 2013-2014. During that time, Roy worked side-by-side with the Senator in the fight against Obamacare, the fight to stop the Gang-of-Eight amnesty bill and the fight to stop a gun registry bill.


“Trusted Leadership PAC is a great team dedicated to electing Senator Cruz to the White House at a time when his leadership, integrity and willingness to stand up for the people against the Washington power-brokers is sorely needed to restore the great promise of America,” Roy said. “It was an honor to fight alongside him in the Senate and I am excited to work in support of his candidacy when so much is at stake for the future of our country.”

Most recently, Roy served as First Assistant Attorney General of Texas where he managed a 4100 person agency that sued the Obama administration nine times, including the successful halt to both the President’s so-called clean power plan and his unconstitutional executive amnesty.
Bottom Line: While we've met both Jeff Mateer and Chip Roy, we don't know either gentleman well.   We do know, however, that many people we respect hold these two in VERY high regard.  They will serve state of Texas and the Cruz for President effort very well.