Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#TXLEGE: Senate Free Speech hearing correctly identifies problem (solutions = anyone's guess)....

"When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them."
Acts 5:33

We attended today's Senate State Affairs committee hearing about free speech on college campuses.  They did a good job asking questions.  Whether they promote good answers remains to be seen.

The hearing began with two hours of invited testimony from bureaucrats representing the various public university systems around the state.  They predictably filibustered and gave Senators the runaround in denying the had a problem.  Honestly, they didn't say anything interesting.

During the third and fourth invited panels, various speakers from across the political spectrum described their experience navigating the morass related to free speech on Texas' campuses.  Contrary to the rosy picture painted by the bureaucrats, Tony McDonald of Empower Texans described his experiences during his college/law school days with YCT.  McDonald proposed eliminating "free speech zones", not charging "security fees" to student organizations, and eliminating requirements for "mandatory faculty advisors" for student groups.  Glenn Maxey of the Texas Democrat Party largely echoed McDonald's testimony but, citing some of his own experiences as an LGBT activist in the 1980's, stressed the need for protections to apply equally to groups on the left as groups on the right.

During the fourth invited panel, Senator Birdwell (finally!) identified the real solution: the Regents need to do their job!!!  Birdwell specifically bemoaned that the university bureaucracies deliberately keep Regents in the dark about the extent of the problem.  Of course, Birdwell neglected to mention that the various Boards of Regents already have the authority they need to eliminate the bureaucracies in question and...well...they haven't.

We built upon Senator Birdwell's comments in our testimony.  We testified that the real responsibility for protecting free speech on campus lies with the Boards of Regents.  We pointed out, furthermore, that at this time last year we told the Texas Senate (and Senator Birdwell in particular) that if they confirmed the last round of UT regent nominees, political correctness (including this free speech stuff) would get worse.  Every Senator on that panel then voted to confirm the Regents in question.  One year later, here we are.   We also pointed out that, among elected officials, it's the Governor (who appoints the regents) who's primarily responsible for public university governance.  It's worth pointing out that, in four panels and four hours of invited testimony, not a single currently serving Regent from any university system was asked to speak.

During public testimony, several left leaning students voiced concerns about the backlash to a student newspaper columnist who publised a highly imflammatory essay about race last fall.  Specifically, they described death threats and doxxing experienced by the author of said essay.  On the other hand, several of those same left leaning students talked about how racist flyers posted around both the UT-Austin and Texas State campuses last year created an "unsafe" enviroment.  Let's clarify: death threats and doxxing aren't cool...but when you lump flyers (no matter how distasteful) with those sorts of physical threats, you undermine your own credibility.

Bottom Line: We'll know if the Senate is serious about this issue when it takes up regent confirmations next year....

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#TXLEGE: Bailes calling Cook a "prostitute" SHOULD be litmus test for Toxic Capitol Culture....

"And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
1 John 2:17

Since the Daily Beast reports about the culture of chronic sexual abuse at the Texas Capitol came out, we're heard a lot of talk about part of the solution is for more women to run for office.  To be honest, this website agrees with a lot of that talk.  So what happens when a young woman runs for the Texas legislature against a male incumbent with a lousy record?!?

Emily Kebodeaux Cook is a well known activist who has worked with Texas Right to Life the past several legislative sessions.  She's currently running against liberal Republican Ernest Bailes for a house seat north of Houston.  This is a textbook case of a young woman running against the corrupt status quo.

So, what did Ernest Bailes call Emily Cook at a candidate forum last night?!?

Ain't that something....

Ironically, we've believed for some time that this race was a good test for those who believe "we need more women in politics."  As stated above, this is a textbook case of a young woman running against a male-dominated status quo.  But, in this case, the male in question happens to be a reliable vote to preserve said status quo who enjoys support from Democrats.

Then the male in question calls the female in question a "prostitute."

Finally, allow us to pre-emptively address the alleged 'substance' of Bailes' remark.  We suspect that, at some point soon, Bailes will try to weasel out of his remark by claiming he misspoke and saying something vague about "special interests."  Well, you can learn everything you need to know about Ernest Bailes' record with special interests here.

As for which candidate in this race is raising more money from special interests, recent campaign finance reports speak for themselves:

Bottom Line: This race was always going to be an interesting test of the philosophical consistency of those who believe 'more women in politics' is (at least part of) the solution to recent scandals.  And that was before the pro-status quo male incumbent called his conservative female challenger a "prostitute."  Won't it be interesting to see the reaction (or lack thereof) in this case....

Monday, January 29, 2018

#TXLEGE: Macias apologies for originally electing Capriglione....

"Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor."
Luke 6:16

This is great, but the best part is the explanation about how the reality of the legislative process all-too-often works:


  • Gio's chief political strategist in 2011 and '12.
  • Held extensive coversations at the time.
  • Ran against liberal Republican Vicki Truitt.
  • Leadership tells legislators not to vote based on policy or principles, but to vote on personality.
    • Giovanni explicitly campaigned on doing the opposite.
  • "Over the past six years, I have watched [Giovanni] become everything he campaigned against [in 2012], and for that: I'm sorry."
  • Had a good session in 2013.
  • "Something happened between his freshman and sophomore year, it is one of the most severe shifts that I have ever witnesses in my entire political career."
  • "Giovanni made a decision.  He decided it was better to evaluate each and every one of the votes he takes....And instead of looking at it according to how he had told you he would vote.  Instead, he would see who the author was.  If that author was powerful.   What the chairman of the committee thought that was hearing a bill of his.  Who the leadership was lining up behind, and how that would effect his standing in the chamber."
  • That decision making model was exactly what Giovanni campaigned against in 2012.
  • Luke fired Giovanni in the summer of 2015: "I turned him down.  I told him I wouldn't work with him."
  • Giovanni paid his next consultant $28,000 next cycle.
  • Got even worse in 2017.
  • In 2012, he campaigned against accounting gimmicks in the budget.  In 2017, he worked to advance a budget full of accounting gimmicks.
  • Armin Mizani is his opponent now.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

#TXLEGE: An older quote that encapsulates the sleazy nature of the Charlie/Mindy Geren relationship

"Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice,
But a companion of harlots wastes his wealth."
Proverbs 29:3

We were researching a separate project this week when we re-discovered this gem from 2015:
One of the most frequently asked questions the operatives have posed to legislators is whether it is proper for lawmakers and lobbyists to date. The question seemed a direct jab at Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a top House lawmaker who has a decade-long relationship with lobbyist Mindy Ellmer.

"I find it offensive," Geren said. "Mindy and I aren't trying to hide anything. She doesn't lobby me. She never has and she won't. That's the deal we've got."
Obviously, Geren was lying (what else is new?!?), but we were struck anew by the sleaziness of the whole ordeal given what's subsequently transpired in the past three years.

And yes, this is the man overseeing the Texas house's new sexual harassment policy.

And yes, that new policy is every bit as pathetic as you might suspect.

Bottom Line: Yes, it really is this sordid and this trashy....

Friday, January 26, 2018

(Very Limited) Open Records Response undermines Khator's credibility re: Kendal "White Women" Briles

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

U of H Chancellor/President finally addressed the festering sore in their football program this week (but, of course, she had to do it in the vaguest way possible):
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.


Baylor never implicated Briles or Clements during its investigation.

Briles, 35, was named in a pending lawsuit - one of several Title IX civil suits filed against Baylor - that alleges he tried to attract recruits by saying female students at Baylor liked the players. "Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at BAYLOR and they LOVE football players," Briles told a Dallas-area recruit, the lawsuit alleged.

Additionally, Baylor suspended Kendal Briles and another assistant after they were found to have committed recruiting infractions for having impermissible contact with a prospect in 2015.
Well, it just so happens that this author put in an open records request to U of H related to the Kendal Briles/Randy Clements hires a couple of weeks which they, kinda sorta, replied late yesterday afternoon (aka. Business day #10, for all you Texas Public Information Act nerds).

It's important to state up front: We received a very limited amount of information from U of H.  But, of course, the limited amount of information they're releasing to anyone is a BIG part of the problem.  But even the small amount we did learn doesn't give us confidence in anything Renu Khator is claiming.

The most important takeaway is that U of H conducted most of its investigation over the telephone.  This is important because having conversations over the telephone instead of in writing is a common technique governmental entities use to evade the Public Information Act when they're up to no good.  But, apparently, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, Academics, and Financial Aid Lauren DuBois held several telephone conversations to vet the Briles/Clements hires.  The content of those conversations is anyone's guess.

But even for the limited written records that do exist, U of H is hiding behind Attorney/Client privilege for an untold number.  This is another dodge that governmental entities pull all the time.  We can't say anything with certainty, but it seems incredibly likely that all correspondence with the Title IX office would fall under this category.

But even the very limited written records they did release raise major red flags.

Baylor raised the alarm about Kendal Briles:

[Note: We're having formatting issues with Scribd, so screenshots of the relevant documents will have to do.]

U of H sent several text messages from Major Applewhite.  Applewhite's primary concern was to not get Briles in trouble with his previous employer before the deal was finalized.  He was also concerned with "chatter" surrounding the Briles hire and reminded athletic department personnel to not speak to the press.  Also, apparently Major is still in touch with Art Briles:

Finally, we'll highlight this gem from U of H's press release announcing the hire:
Named the Big 12 Recruiter of the Year by Scout in 2013 and 2014.
Really?!? The guy in question got in trouble for sending text messages to recruits implying that they'd be able to commit racially charged sexual assaults, and y'all praise his recruiting ability during the period in question?!?  Might want to rethink....

Bottom Line: We now know that Baylor raised concerns to U of H and that Major Applewhite primary concern was to minimize "chatter."  That certainly seems to contradict the University president's claim to have committed "due diligence."  Even in a best-case scenario, the optics surrounding this stink.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#TXLEGE: Abbott's property tax plan likely faces similar trajectory as Perry's 2013 "Budget Compact"....

"That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1:9

We've seen this movie before.

Setting: The Governor of Texas announces a fantastic fiscal policy proposal a year before the next legislative session.  The Lt. Governor signs on and the relevant activist/policy groups tout it's merit.  Then, once session gets underway, the proposal dies due to a combination of a couple intransigent Senators, a house that likes to spend money (no matter what they say on the campaign trail), and a Governor too distracted to get his own policy proposal implemented.

We've discussed more than once how Rick Perry's 2013 "Texas Budget Compact" proposal was our formative experience in the Texas legislature.  It's worth reviewing that history in the context of Greg Abbott's current property tax proposal.  We don't think all that much has really changed.

In 2012, following the collapse of his first Presidential campaign, then-Governor Rick Perry returned home and outlined a very strong package of budget/transparency reforms he wanted to see the legislature implement.  Under pressure from Ted Cruz during their original U.S. Senate race, then-Lt. Governor Dewhurst quickly signed onEmpower Texans and TPPF did everything right.

Then, we got into the legislative session in 2013.  Joe Straus did what Joe Straus does.  Dewhurst, despite a good faith effort, couldn't line up the votes he needed in the Senate.  And Rick Perry was more interested in bashing California on Fox News than doing the day-to-day work of the Governor of Texas.

Sound familiar?!?

To be fair, a few things have are different since then, specifically:
  • The Senate has a) changed the 21-vote threshold to 19, and b) grown significantly more conservative in its membership.
  • Joe Straus, personally, is leaving.
Both of those changes are positive...but it's an open question whether either is a big enough to get Abbott's property tax proposal across the finish line.

While Abbott's proposal has a decent chance in the Senate, it's not a slam dunk.  Charles Perry pulled some major league shenanigans on property taxes during the recent special session.  Bob Nichols is always a wild card.  There's a 50/50 chance Seliger returns.  Even if Lt. Governor Patrick can line up 19 votes, doing so could easily involve icky legislative trade-offs.

On the house side, as the membership currently stands, 76 votes DO NOT EXIST for Abbott's proposal.  That's true regardless of the next speaker's identity.  For that to change, conservatives are going to need to have a very, very good primary season.

A better speaker can get a bill to the floor, but you still need 76 votes.

Bottom Line: Don't get your hopes up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Issues we'd like Congressional Candidates to discuss....

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him."
Colossians 1:16

This cycle, there are Six Open Congressional seats in Texas that are (essentially) safe for Republicans.  In those six seats, there are currently 55 candidates running on the Republican side.  Unfortunately, in an environment with this many candidates and this many open seats, there's no creativity or intellectual bandwidth.

Instead, everyone's running boilerplate Republican campaigns.  "Rah, rah, Patriotism; rah, rah, Constitution; rah, rah, Mom and Apple Pie."  Nobody stands out.

In that spirit, we present these issues and impress us:
  • Constant Redistricting/Voter ID Lawsuits -- We discussed this last year in the context of the failures of Texas' current congressional delegation.  Well, a quarter of the current Congressional delegation is retiring.  Yet nobody running for the open seats is discussing the issue.

    The TL,DR version is that it's well within Congresses jurisdiction to shut down this nonsense.  All they have to do is amend the Voting Rights Act and a couple other federal statutes.  Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are afraid of the race card and thus lack the political will.

    We are three years away from the next round of redistricting.  We can either fix this madness before the 2020 census, or we can expect another decade of this garbage.  Anyone wanna step up?!?
    • [Sub-issue] Accountability for Judges Ramos and Rodriguez -- These constant federal lawsuits are primarily the fault of two specific Judges: Obama appointee Nelva Ramos of Corpus Christi and George W. Bush appointee (yay bi-partisanship!!!) Xavier Rodriguez of San Antonio.

      Congress has any number of tools to reign in rogue judges.  Examples include the bully pulpit, budget restrictions, and impeachment.  Yet nothing.

      While we're on the subject, the CD-21 (the Lamar Smith seat) covers San Antonio.  CD-27 (the Blake Farenthold seat) covers Corpus Christi.  Out of the 24 candidates running for those two seats, you would think that at least one of them would figure out this issue.
  • Eliminating Federal Distortions in the Housing Market -- As this website has become more interested in #CodeNext and local land use issues over the past couple years, one reality stands out: Most of the issues we're dealing with at the local level are the natural consequence of various Federal policies.

    The recently passed tax law begins to curtail these distortions.  But plenty of ground remains to be covered.  Potential examples include restricting/eliminating the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie/Freddie, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Also, let's not forget the role federal distortions of the housing market played in the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Eliminating Federal Subsidies for Higher Education -- Conservatives loooooooooooooooooove to whine about political correctness on college campuses, yet nobody confront the fact the political correctness is the natural consequence of massive federal subsidies for higher education.

    In addition, student loan debt is a gigantic drag on the national economy.  Well, guess what?!?  The same federal policies that are subsidizing political correctness are also driving the student loan crisis.

    People can make fun of the Berniecrats for all of their "free college" talk...but at least they're proposing SOMETHING.  It shouldn't surprise anyone that, in the midst of vacuum, something beats nothing.  Where's the free-market alternative?!?
  • Eliminating other Federal Departments/Agencies -- Housing and Higher ed might be this website's particular bugaboos, but we're not seeing much discussion about eliminating any other Federal Departments or Agencies.
  • The Federal Reserve -- Don't get us started but, with 55 candidates running in 6 open seats, you'd think someone would hammer the issue.
Bottom Line: To have 55 candidates running for 6 open seats is an unprecedented opportunity.  Unfortunately, stale, uninspiring campaigns seem to abound.  If anyone wants to show creativity or intellectual bandwidth, here are some good places to start.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#TXLEGE: Miles NO-SHOWS first public event post Sexual Predator revelations

"Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord,
And their works are in the dark;
They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”
Isaiah 29:15

[Note: The livestream for the event, with Even Smith's brief comment, can be seen here.]

For the past couple months, Senator Borris Miles has lived under a cloud following multiple credible reports in the national media about predatory sexual behavior in the Texas Legislature.  Miles had been scheduled to appear this afternoon at a Texas Tribune event in Houston.  It had been widely assumed that, whatever lame defense Senator Miles might make, he would make it at this afternoon's event.

Which makes the following development very interesting:

During his event introduction, Evan Smith simply said "Senator Miles' office informed us last night that he would not be able to attend today's event."

Really?!?  Obviously, it's not a secret how this website feels about the reports surrounding Senator Miles.  But, if he's ever willing to present it, we'd love to hear his side of the story.

Finally, it'll be interesting to see how other Senators react to today's development.  To date, not a single Senator has called for Borris Miles to resign.  But no-showing an event where you were widely expected to address (however belatedly) the horrible stories that have been floating around about you for months is a pretty significant progression.

Bottom Line: At some point, you have to explain your actions, and if you fail to show up at an event were you were widely expected to do so, you can't be surprised when people assume the worst.

#TXLEGE: Why is Dan Patrick's political consultant ALSO consulting for Dan Huberty?!?

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit."
Psalm 32:2

We said our piece last week about the utter, total, and complete failure that led to Dan Huberty facing a cakewalk re-election; but now that Huberty's officially running unopposed, we noticed a very interesting nugget in the press coverage:
“Game over,” Huberty consultant Allen Blakemore said in a Friday statement.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Sssay what...Allen Blakemore is Dan Huberty's consultant?!?

For those who might not be aware, Allen Blakemore's most famous client is Lt. Governor Patrick.  Blakemore is often seen as a direct proxy for the Lt. Governor.   Given this background, for Blakemore to be consulting for Dan Huberty is, at best, deeply unsettling.

To review: Last Session, Dan Patrick's top two priorities were property tax reform and school choice.  Dan Huberty maliciously killed the latter while he was a key player in watering down the former into meaninglessness.  At the same time, Huberty was pushing a dishonest school finance scheme that the Lt. Governor (correctly) characterized as a "Ponzi scheme."

Yet they have the same political consultant.

Bottom Line: For a political consultant who is often perceived to be the Lt. Governor's direct proxy to also be the political consultant for a house committee chairman who took a lead role in killing or watering down the Lt. Governor's top two priorities last session is...strange.

Monday, January 22, 2018

#TXLEGE: Charlie Geren's new sexual harassment policy is just as pathetic as we predicted....

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

Game, set, match for the Texas Observer:
After reports surfaced in November that women have for years endured sexual harassment in the Texas Capitol, leaders in the House promised, among other actions, to provide sexual harassment training to legislators and their staff. We’ve got the training, and it’s a 40-minute video that seems unlikely to change the toxic atmosphere at the statehouse any time soon.

The training is a video of a PowerPoint presentation with a voiceover that also covers discrimination based on race, age, disability and genetics. Just 18 minutes of the video is dedicated to sexual harassment, including boilerplate examples of harassment, reasons to prevent it, laws against sexual harassment, the House’s policy and reporting mechanisms.

The whole video has a feeling of, ‘Let’s quick minimize liability on every front, watch this video,’” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who researches sex discrimination and workplace equality.

Recent research shows that if training isn’t properly designed, it’s unlikely to lead to more reporting of harassment, much less reduce instances of inappropriate behavior. According to Eden King, a psychology professor at Rice University, there’s some evidence that training programs have better outcomes when they are longer than four hours, include face-to-face interaction, involve interactive learning, are conducted by outside experts and actively involve leaders in the workplace. The House video meets none of those criteria.

Instead of being paired with an interactive, in-person training as recommended by researchers, the video is available on the House’s internal server and is probably watched alone. Viewers are required to take a 10-question, multiple-choice test. To pass, you must answer at least seven questions correctly. If you fail, you can simply retake the test without having to watch the video a second time.


When institutions face allegations of sexual harassment, Grossman said, the instinct is often to establish programs that reduce legal liability. The law tends to reward somewhat “superficial or simplistic” measures, she said, such as merely implementing a policy or conducting training. A 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that most of the harassment training conducted in the last 30 years has failed to reduce harassment and has instead been used to meet legal requirements. “Ineffective training can be unhelpful or even counterproductive,” the report noted.


Research shows that to create an environment of equality, institutions must go beyond training. One crucial aspect is to ensure that victims feel they have a safe way to report complaints.
The Observer piece is well-worth reading in full, but it closes with a recommendation that this website fully endorses:
Grossman said that to truly address harassment, the Legislature should conduct a comprehensive audit and study its work environment.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Yes, please do, and while you're conducting said audit, please keep in mind what we said a couple weeks ago about the toxic culture at the Capitol not being limited to sex.

Bottom Line: It's appalling.  But it's also not surprising.  What would you expect from a guy who's been engaged in a sexual relationship with a lobbyist for most of the past decade?!?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now that we're a "finalist," will the public ever get to see the "Austin's" Amazon bid?!?

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

A new development:
Austin and Dallas are among 20 North American metropolitan areas being considered for a second headquarters for Amazon, the online retail giant announced Thursday morning.

The cities were among several in Texas that had been competing to lure the company. Competition has been fierce, since Amazon says it plans to invest $5 billion in its new headquarters and create "as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs" in the city it picks.

Thursday's list eliminates two major Texas cities — Houston and El Paso — that were also vying for the spot. Despite initial plans to do so, San Antonio did not submit a bid to host the company's second headquarters. City officials told Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October that "blindly giving away the farm isn't our style."


In a brief statement Thursday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler recognized that "mobility and affordability" are among the city's greatest challenges in attracting businesses like Amazon, and said the city council is focused on addressing those two concerns.

Cities across North America have offered major economic incentives in attempts to lure Amazon, including tax breaks and land. And while some cities have publicly offered up their proposals to the tech giant — New Jersey, for example, has pledged up to $7 billion in tax incentives, and Chicago officials offered Amazon credits totaling about $1.32 billion in income taxes — Texas cities have stayed quieter about what they're willing to put on the table.

Austin city officials said in October that no local financial incentives were included in their bid for the headquarters. Adler said Thursday he still has not heard any talk about offering local incentives.

Mike Berman, spokesman for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, called the bid a "great success" but wouldn't offer details on any specific sites that the city proposed. guys want to share any of that information with the public?!?  Or are we just supposed to glean tidbits here and there from open records requests?!?

Bottom Line: We remain neutral on this project pending the receipt of more information.  That being said, the fact that we've been discussing an Amazon bid for three months without more information being forthcoming is very frustrating.  At a minimum, the optics surrounding this secretive process continue to stink....

Friday, January 19, 2018

#TXLEGE: Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton are BOTH solid conservatives (and their supporters need to stop acting like Children)

"Folly is set in great dignity,
While the rich sit in a lowly place."
Ecclesiastes 10:6

Sometimes, it pays to stay out of a race.

With the release of campaign finance reports, a juvenile slap fight has broken out between supporters of Phillip Huffines and supporters of Angela Paxton over obscure campaign contributions; neither of the contributions in question should remotely concern anyone.

First, Angela Paxton: On her most recent campaign finance report, Angela Paxton reported $17,500 in contributions from liberal Republican former state senator John Carona.  That seems bad, until you remember that DON Huffines beat Carona four years ago.  Clearly, Carona is still miffed over his loss to Don Huffines, and is using Angela Paxton as a mechanism to get back at the Huffines family.

[Note: It's also worth pointing out that Carona served in the Senate with KEN Paxton; Senate collegiality being what it is, it's also not surprising to see a former Senator donating to the wife of a former Senator with whom he served.]

As for Phillip Huffines: In 2006, he made two donations, totaling $1500, to Dallas Democrat Helen Giddings.  This against the backdrop of two decades as a political donor that have seen him give hundreds of thousands to explicitly conservative causes.  We assume Huffines had a business interest in Giddings' district and, well, it's a little hard to stomach watching people belatedly complain about Republican candidates making donations to Democrats to protect their business interests when nobody seemed to have a problem with this guy doing it.

For those who are interested, they can check out all of Philip Huffines' campaign contributions since 2000 below:

Bottom Line: No matter what happens, Senate District 8 is going to be represented by someone with whom the average Conservative Texan agrees at least 98% of the time.  Neither of the respective political donations about which we've learned changes that fact. People need perspective.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TXLEGE: School Choice Advocates headed for YET ANOTHER EPIC Election Season FAIL

Dan Huberty (Center), Gary VanDeaver (Right), and Ken King (Left);
of those three, King is the only one who *might* face a competitive primary. 
"For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
2 Peter 1:9

Last week, one of our most trusted sources expressed the following sentiment: "The [school choice] lobby has to be the dumbest, most incompetent, group at the Capitol.  Here you have the public school lobby actively encouraging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, and it's being left to individual county party executive committees to smoke this behavior out.  What gives?!?"

That was a good start, but there are several other reasons why we think the effort remains doomed for the foreseeable future.


Democrats voting in Republican primaries:

The Texas Monitor summarizes a recent event from Hood County:
A school superintendent running as a Republican for the Texas House was slapped with a “no confidence” vote by the local party this week.

Granbury ISD Superintendent James Largent called the move “shameful.”

Hood County GOP Chairman Jim Logan said Largent had it coming.

“To our knowledge, he has never participated in local or state Republican Party activities. He has said he disagrees with most of the party platform, and openly disparages Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” Logan told The Texas Monitor in an interview.

As a result, the executive committee of the local party issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in Largent in the House District 60 race.

State Rep. Mike Lang is running for re-election in HD 60 against Largent and Gregory Risse in the March 6 primary.


Largent, 52, does not hide his politics. Opining regularly on the Granbury ISD website, the superintendent’s commentaries echo increasingly shrill attacks from the state’s “Big Ed” establishment.

In a post titled “Conservative Leadership,” the superintendent defends forced collection of union dues, assails school choice legislation and attacks state Republicans, ridiculing Abbott and Patrick.

Slamming the so-called “bathroom bill” last session, Largent wrote that Patrick “does not understand the transgender issue.”

Hood County residents question whether the superintendent understands the boundaries of professional ethics.

Plumping for an $85 million school bond, Largent emailed teachers urging them to call parents to support the debt package at the polls. Some instructors balked at the political gambit, and public-records requests into Largent’s official correspondence are pending with the district.

Meantime, Hood County Democrats, including the wife of a GISD School Board member, are actively pushing their support for Largent.

“He’ll attend Democratic Party meetings and has declined our invitations,” Logan noted.
That's all well and good.  We're glad that the Hood County Republican party stepped up to the plate.  But this is going on all over the state, and it shouldn't be left up to local activists to play an ad hoc game of whack-a-mole to smoke this out.

Empower Texans and the Texas Monitor have done good work exposing this nonsense, but they're general interest publications.  They can only do so much.  Where are the single issue education reform groups?!?

Imagine an alternative scenario: Every time one of these socialized education front groups attempts to get Democrats voting in the Republican primary, the conservative "education reformers" are on it in the local community.  Then they get the message out in each individual community on their own.  Nobody waits for general interest websites that might or might not ultimately pick up the story.

It's too soon to know the ultimate number, but there will be house seats left on the table this cycle because the socialized education bureaucracy gets democrats to vote in the Republican primary.  And a big reason why will be because the single-issue education reform groups failed to take care of business.  General interest websites can only do so much.


Huberty coming back:

Between his disgraceful personal conduct and the lies he's told related to school finance, there are few house members less deserving of another term than Dan Huberty.

Unfortunately, look at his opponent's latest campaign finance report:

It's bad enough for Huberty to have a cakewalk re-election campaign from an ethics perspective and a school finance/property taxes perspective.

But lets remember what Dan Huberty did last session on school choice:

So, you have a committee chairman who disses you in the most humiliatingly public way possible?!?  And you represent an issue where donors have recently started to open checkbooks.  Yet the only person opposing the committee chairman in question has $440.00 cash on hand.

The school choice advocacy community's failure to make an example out of Dan Huberty means their issue will be just as dead on arrival in the house next session (even with a new speaker) as it was last session (they'll just be nicer about it).


VanDeaver running unopposed:

But beyond Huberty's cake-walk, check out what's happening to the guy long known to be house leadership's next public ed chair after Huberty cashes out:

In other words, in addition to failing to unseat the biggest obstacle to the legislative change you're seeking, you're also leaving in place the guy being groomed to be his successor.


Answer this question: If you're a Republican house member, and you're personally on the fence about school choice, how would YOU interpret Huberty and VanDeaver coming back without much of a fight?!?


Inadequate Effort focused in the wrong direction:

Beyond the shortcomings of any particular election cycle (after election cycle, after election cycle, after election cycle), the biggest problem school choice advocates face is that their efforts both fall short and aren't focused where they need to be.

School choice advocates love to talk about how school choice is "the civil rights issue of our time."  But their actions don't match their rhetoric.  Where's the urgency?!?

Newsflash: The actual civil rights movement didn't limit themselves to a passive political strategy.  While politics were certainly a component of their strategy, it was only a component.   The actual civil rights movement held boycotts (hint, hint).  The actual civil rights movement held sit-ins.  The actual civil rights movement did a heck of a lot more than simply holding rallies at the state capitol every other year.

Then there's the fact that, while school choice advocates can sometimes "drive a conversation" in Austin, they rarely seem to do much in the districts of recalcitrant members.

Last session, we suggested to a well known school choice advocate that, if you really wanted to pass a school choice bill next session, you need to start holding sit-ins at high school football games in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans.  Force the issue at Churches and coffee shops across the relevant districts.  We got a blank stare in response.

[Note: Having had several additional months to ponder the strategy, we actually wouldn't start with sit-ins at football games.  We'd start with sit-ins at rural school board meetings and threaten to take them to Football games as the next step.  But, either way, if this is truly "the civil rights issue of our time" you need to be holding sit-ins in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans and that ain't happening.]


Bottom Line: Absent a gigantic course correction, school choice will remain dead on arrival in the Texas house for the foreseeable future, and the issue's most passionate advocates have no one but themselves to blame.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#TXLEGE: Abbott's property tax related political theater includes FOUR (recent) tax-hikers

Left: Villalba, Geren and Button today in Ft. Worth;
Right: Jim Murphy yesterday in Houston

"He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence."
Psalm 101:7

[UPDATE: It gets better, apparently Bonnen voted for HB 486 in committee.]

[UPDATE II: Apparently, Giovanni and Linda Koop were there as well, which just further illustrates our point.]

Question: What do Angie Chen Button, Charlie Geren, Jim Murphy, and Jason Villalba have in common?!?

Did they?!?
  • a) Vote to grease the skids for property tax hikes last session?!?
  • b) Appear at one of Governor Abbott's recent press conferences promoting his property tax plan.

    -- OR --
  • c) BOTH.
The answer, unfortunately, is "C."

Over the past 2 days, Governor Abbott has held press conferences in both Houston and Ft. Worth extolling the benefits of his new property tax proposal.  In fairness to Abbott (as we explained yesterday) it's a good proposal.  Unfortunately, many members of the cast of characters with whom Abbott has chosen to surround himself leaves us...less than sanguine about the proposal's chances of passage.

As a particlarly flagrant example of why, consider HB 486 from last session:

Next, consider which Republicans voted for HB 486 and cross reference them against attendance at Abbott's press conferences:

Bottom Line: If you want us to believe that you're committed to reigning in the property tax system, you probably shouldn't surround yourself with four legislators who voted to grease the skids for further property tax increases as recently as last May.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

As Kendal "White Women" Briles situation continues to fester, [U of H Board Chairman] Fertitta attends big party

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

10 days ago, the University of Houston hired an assistant Football coach who had been caught facilitating racially charged sexual assaults during a previous coaching gig at Baylor.

Last Monday, we wrote an open letter to the Chairman of the U of H Board of Regents outlining our concerns; on Saturday, we outlined the specific questions U of H needs to successfully address.

So, how does the chairman of the University of Houston's Board of Regents respond?!?
Floyd Mayweather Jr. surprises Slim Thug's gala guests, joins Tilman Fertitta at Minute Maid Park


The elevated Sunday funday bash toasted two Bayou City entrepreneurs, Tilman Fertitta and Daymond John. Fertitta's claim to fame includes ownership of Landry's Inc., Golden Nugget Casinos and, now, the Rockets, as well as being a potential dreammaker on "Billion Dollar Buyer."

[Note: Emphasis in original.]
In other words, in the midst of this festering sore of a situation at the public university where Tilman Fertitta is chairman of the Board of Regents, Tilman Fertitta chooses to attend a big party.  Got it.

Bottom Line: With every day that passes, it's gets harder to conclude anything other than that the University of Houston simply does not care about the racially charged sexual assaults their fancy new football coach was previously caught facilitating.   When it already looks like you're stonewalling, to have the Chairman of your Board of Regents show up at a high end "gala" probably doesn't help matters.  At a minimum, the optics are terrible.

Incoherent Abbott makes good local government accountability proposal (how he plans to pass it is anyone's guess)

"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'll start with the good news:
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday unveiled a plan to "rein in skyrocketing property taxes" in Texas, looking to lay down a marker in a debate that dominated the legislative sessions last year and promises to remain front and center through the 2018 primaries and beyond.

"Under the plan I am announcing today, Texas will take action to limit property tax growth, secure private property rights and ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in the nation," Abbott, a Republican who is running for re-election this year, said in a statement as he embarked on a tour of the state — with stops planned here and in Arlington — to promote the plan.

A key tenet of Abbott’s proposal is to prevent cities, counties and school districts from collecting more than 2.5 percent in property tax revenue than they did in a previous year without voter approval. That’s a far lower cap than controversial thresholds that twice failed to make it through the Legislature last year. And his plan would require that two-thirds of voters — well beyond a simple majority — approve any increase above that 2.5 percent threshold.

But Abbott’s plan also offers local leaders something last year’s property tax overhauls didn’t. The state would no longer be able to saddle local governments with providing new services without providing state funding to cover the costs, he said. And when it comes to funding public education — which makes up the majority of local property tax bills — Texas lawmakers would likely be required to put up more state funds under Abbott’s proposal.


Another provision in the proposal would also require local governments to be more transparent about the debt they carry when asking voters to approve new bond packages. And it would also require a supermajority of voters to approve additional debt.
This is good.  The unrestricted growth of government at the local level is the number 1 long term economic threat to Texas.  And Abbott's proposal today goes further to address the issue than anything we saw during either the regular or the special session of the 85.

But let's not kid ourselves: It's hard to see how this proposal goes anywhere as long as Dennis Bonnen and Drew Darby remain in the house, and Greg Abbott has endorsed both Dennis Bonnen and (*yack*) Drew Darby.

So there you go: Abbott's making good proposals, but he's not doing the legwork necessary to give himself a legislature that will be receptive to said proposals.

Bottom Line: The Abbott campaign loves to run stupid hashtag campaigns asking people to pledge "hashtagI'mwithAbbott."  But we often find ourselves wondering whether or not Abbott is truly with Abbott.  Today's announcement was a textbook example why.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cruz saves UT Politburo from itself (prevents National Security crisis in the process)

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

Holy late afternoon on a holiday document dump Batman:
After months of internal uproar and a letter from U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the University of Texas at Austin has declared its China center will not accept funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation that the Republican from Texas said helps spread Chinese government propaganda abroad.

The decision – first reported in an article in the “Opinions” section of The Washington Post – was disclosed in a letter sent Friday from UT-Austin President Greg Fenves to Cruz.

The school must "ensure that the receipt of outside funding does not create potential conflicts of interest or place limits on academic freedom and the robust exchange of ideas,” Fenves wrote. “I am concerned about this if we were to accept funding from [the foundation].”

The week before, Cruz had written to Fenves to “express concern” about UT-Austin's new China center's relationship with the China-United States Exchange Foundation – a “pseudo-philanthropic foundation,” Cruz wrote, that has ties to an arm of the Chinese government that manages “foreign influence operations.”

In his letter, dated Jan. 2, Cruz wrote he’d heard that the UT-Austin center was considering a partnership with the foundation. Launched around the start of the fall semester, the China Public Policy Center was charged with making “fresh and enduring contributions to the study of China-related policy topics while advancing U.S.-China relations and Texas-China relations,” according to a UT news release.

Its executive director, David Firestein, was formerly a U.S. diplomat and senior vice president at the EastWest Institute. He did not respond to requests for comment made by phone and email.

Cruz said in his letter that he was worried about the center's collaboration with the foundation and that it would disseminate “propaganda within the center and compromise its credibility.” The same concerns were raised in emails circulated on an internal UT-Austin faculty e-mail list in December, just four months after the China center launched.
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: In their neverending financial avarice, the University of Texas was initially willing to accept money to spread propaganda for the Chinese government.  They were only thwarted by an attentive United States Senator.  On a semi related note: Yes, this is the same University of Texas that wants to manage the nation's nuclear weapons....

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Question U of H needs to answer re: Kendal "White Women" Briles

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

Re-reading the Trib's bombshell about the ongoing U of H/Baylor mess, we were struck by this section about U of H's "vetting" process:
UH did not receive letters of recommendation from Baylor for Clements or Briles, UH spokesman Mike Rosen told the Tribune. But he said both coaches received "verbal recommendations" and were vetted through processes that went beyond “normal protocol.”

“The candidates both agreed to an interview with our Vice President for Legal Affairs/General Counsel, who has extensive experience in handling Title IX matters and supervised our Title IX office for almost 15 years,” Rosen wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune. “The interview included discussions specifically about Title IX compliance,” which is not typical.

Rosen said the school’s athletic director also “made several calls to former colleagues of the candidates,” and that the athletics’ compliance officer “made additional inquiries to the NCAA and former schools where the candidates worked, including Baylor.” He said it is not typical for the athletic director “to be involved in hires at this level.”

When asked if UH asked Baylor whether the two hires were responsible for the misconduct mentioned in the “Findings of Fact” document – and whether or not Baylor provided an answer – Rosen said the school was “not going to characterize the conversations with specific universities.”

He said, “The university did its due diligence and was satisfied with the results.”
That's really vague.  It tells us nothing about what was actually was done, it just tells us that 'something' was done which included a Title IX component (which could be about legal CYA as much as anything related to actual assault prevention).  Essentially, U of H is arguing "trust us."

Well, we don't.

In case you're unfamiliar, here's what Kendal "White Women" Briles was caught doing:
Former assistant coach Kendal Briles — the son of the head coach — once told a Dallas area student athlete, “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players,” according to the suit.
So, University of Houston, how did you 'vet' THAT quote?!?

What sort of "due diligence" was done surrounding that quote, and WHY are you "satisfied with the results?!?"

You're not telling us.

Who knows?!?  Maybe there's an explanation for that quote.  Considering that it's been in the public domain for a year and has yet to explained, we don't believe a one exists.  But if U of H wanted to offer one, we'd listen.

Instead, they're essentially arguing "trust us."

And we don't.

Bottom Line:  To hire a football coach who was recently caught facilitating racially charged sexual assaults is a brazen act.  The public needs more than vague assurances about "due diligence" and being "satisfied with the results."  Specifically, it might be a good idea to tell the public WHY you were "satisfied."  Until such information is forthcoming, given everything we've learned about this ongoing mess over the past three years, it's hard to avoid assuming the worst.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Texas Higher Education's Culture of Stonewalling Reaps its Poisonous Fruit

"In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me."
Matthew 26:55

Mind-boggling report in the Trib this morning about U of H's inexplicable Kendal Briles' hire:
A bid to better their football team’s offense put University of Houston officials on the defensive this past week.

It’s a posture several schools have had to adopt in recent years after announcing they’d hired coaching staff – like UH’s new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and offensive line coach Randy Clements – who had worked at Baylor University and departed under the cloud of a sexual assault scandal.

Those universities, like UH, have been quick to offer assurances that their hires were carefully vetted, including through conversations with Baylor officials. But their attempts to set minds at ease have been hampered by one major issue: While Baylor has blamed "athletics and football personnel" for much of the scandal, it has never revealed publicly who specifically did what wrong.


When asked if UH asked Baylor whether the two hires were responsible for the misconduct mentioned in the “Findings of Fact” document – and whether or not Baylor provided an answer – Rosen said the school was “not going to characterize the conversations with specific universities.”

He said, “The university did its due diligence and was satisfied with the results.”

Tracy, the survivor and activist, said UH’s hiring decision “sends the wrong message.” She said she spoke with UH’s football program last year and that it felt “kind of like a punch in the gut, when I read which school it was” that had made the hires.

Both Kendal Briles’ and Clements’ memorandums of understanding with UH contain a morality clause that says the coaches can be fired if new information about their conduct at Baylor surfaces, according to the Houston Chronicle. But “merely having been on staff at Baylor and performing [their] job duties while allegations of misconduct were made” is not alone grounds for termination, the clause reads, in part.
The report is worth reading in full, but as you read it do remember that Kendal Briles is literally the guy who was caught sending text messages facilitating racially charged sexual assaults.

Yes, it's that bad.

But as you scratch your head wondering how an institution of higher education in the State of Texas could hire a football coach who has never provided a compelling explanation for the afore mentioned text messages he sent while coaching at another institution of higher education in the State of Texas...consider a separate incident at another institution of higher education in the State of Texas.


On May 1, 2017, the University of Texas experienced it's second on-campus MURDER in thirteen months:
One person was killed and three were injured in a stabbing attack Monday afternoon on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, officials said.

Two of the students injured have been released from the hospital, university officials said.

Earlier, officials had said only two people were hurt but UT-Austin police said later that three were wounded. Details on their injuries were not available.

The suspect is a UT student and is in custody, campus police said. His possible motive is under investigation.
Keep in mind: That awful incident happened 7.5 months ago.   Since then, the Board of Regents has met FOURTEEN times.  But not a single public discussion of on-campus security following two on-campus murders in thirteen months.

[Note: Yet somehow they manage to find time to assemble a bid to manage the nation's nuclear weapons.]

[Note II: It almost sounds quaint at this point, but remember when their worst acts of stonewalling involved pay-to-play admissions scandals?!?]


While the ongoing Baylor/U of H sexual assault fiasco and the murders at UT are the most flagrant examples, they're hardly alone.   Off the top of our head, we can think of incidents at A&M, Tech,  and Texas Southern that the respective administrations have never addressed sufficiently.  And that's just what we know about.

What will the next horrifying scandal be?!?

Bottom Line: People are literally getting raped and killed because institutions of higher education across Texas would rather obfuscate than clean house.  As mind-boggling as that sentence might be to read, that's reality.  How long will the public tolerate it?!?