Thursday, May 31, 2018

#TXLEGE, #atxcouncil: The Costs and Consequences of Municipal "sick leave" Entitlements

"Is it not lawful for me to do as I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?!?"
Matthew 20:15

We attended this afternoon's TPPF event: The Cost and Consequences of Mandating Paid Sick Leave.  The event discussed the municipal entitlement the Austin City Council invented out of thin air last February.  Since Austin passed its ordinance, the tentacles are spreading to San Antonio and Dallas.

Tina Greider-Cannon of the Austin Chamber discussed how there were only 19 days between posting the language of the ordinance and final passage.  That schedule made it impossible to do a real economic impact study.  Cannon furthermore illustrated how, even using the advocates bogus numbers, there was still going to be a net economic impact of at least $140 million.  She also mentioned that unionized businesses are carved out of the ordinance.

Don "Skeeter" Miller of the County Line restaurant called the Austin entitlement an "administrative nightmare."   To simply consolidate the hours of employees who work at stores both inside and outside the city limits is a daunting task.  He also said it would kill their ability to do flexible scheduling for employees.  Miller said the minimum cost of the Austin ordinance would be $200,000 per year.

Annie Spilman of the National Federation of Independent Businesses made an interesting point about the vagueness of the ordinance.  She suggested it could set employers up for "stings" by various outside groups.  Rather than fight a city working in cahoots with the outside groups, employers natural tendency will be to settle.  Obviously, this is another form of shakedown.

The most interesting speaker was Paul Workman.  Workman talked about how the Austin ordinance was part of a national effort to push socialist economic policies at the local level.  Workman pointed out that this was part of a trend along with several other bad city of Austin policies.  This was the most perceptive we've seen Workman speak about the groups pushing this nonsense, and we were glad to see it.

Of course, the problem is that this is not our first rodeo with Paul Workman.  Paul Workman has been filing bills to reign in the city of Austin for years.  Those bills never seem to go anywhere.  We asked Workman about that during Q&A.  Workman said that because of the new speaker, those bills will start moving.  Of course, this brings up certain obvious questions about Workman's previous speaker decisions.  But, at this point, dwelling on the past won't accomplish anything moving forward.

Bottom Line: Municipal entitlements are a nightmare for any number of reasons.

#TXLEGE: House Democrats' Stunt Illustrates Potential Unintended Consequences of Abbott "School Safety' Proposal

"Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17

Our initial reaction to Governor Abbott's "school safety" proposal was that it sounded expensive and vague.  We were already planning to discuss how it was littered with potential unintended consequences.  But the house Democrat caucus illustrated our point better than we ever could:

Empower Texans explains Moody's bill:
Moody’s bill is a far-reaching anti-gun bill that stomps on the Second Amendment. If adopted, any household member or a prosecuting attorney could file an application asking a court to confiscate a person’s firearms. The court could then order all of the person’s firearms be seized, without a hearing and without notice to the accused.

The order could then be extended for up to two years without the case ever being submitted to a jury, and without any right of appeal. The accused would only be entitled to a hearing before a judge just 14 days after their firearms were initially seized, allowing little time for the person to find an attorney to represent them. At that hearing, the court would be required to take into account the accused person’s history of not just convictions but also arrests under a variety of laws, including any misdemeanor involving violence.

Notably, Moody’s bill calls on the court to issue its initial “ex parte” confiscation order if it finds “reasonable cause” to do so. That standard is even less than the probable cause standard required for police to place a person under arrest.

s “Put simply, Moody’s legislation is in complete contradiction with the very notion of “due process” and must be opposed by any legislator who takes their oath to the United States and Texas constitutions seriously,” said Tony McDonald, general counsel to Empower Texans.
Obviously, Moody's bill wasn't Abbott's intention.  But Abbott's proposal was vague enough that Moody's bill could conceivably fit.  We can't blame the Democrats for trying.

Therein lies the rub: Nobody objects to keeping firearms out of the hands of genuinely dangerous people.  But the process by which we make that determination is key.  The history of abuses based on specious 'mental health' grounds, backed by the force of government, isn't exactly pretty.

As it relates to 'mental health': Whatever proposal is ultimately adopted needs to be very carefully vetted by a team of lawyers.  And it needs to be done publicly.  This is one of those cases where the precise language of the statute is very important.

Then there's the fact that the legislature passed four allegedly 'major' mental health bills last session: What, specifically, would a new round of 'mental health' legislation accomplish that wasn't addressed in the last round?!?

Then there's the fact that Abbott's call for schools to install 'active shooter' alarms sounds like a boondoggle waiting to happen.  Somebody's going to get a big contract.  And it'll probably be one of the usual suspects.

Bottom Line: The Democrats just did us an unintentional favor; let's heed the lesson....

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

#atxcouncil: Where we're at on CodeNext....

"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly."
Proverbs 26:11

We testified at yesterday's city council Code Next hearing.  We're not particularly interested in arguing over the topic [Note: NO FACEBOOK MESSAGES].  But if you want to know how we feel at this point, here you go:


  • Disappointed and Pessimistic.
  • "I have always supported the goals of Code Next."
  • "I think Code Next offered a unique opportunity to lower housing costs, improve our transportation situation, and do so in a way that's consistent with our environmental goals."
    • Note: Past tense.
  • "Unfortunately, it doesn't really look like that's happening."
  • "In it's current design, Code Next is...a bad policy wrapped in an even worse process."
  • "Frankly, I'm disgusted by the whole thing."
  • Policy: "[D]raft 3 (and everything we've seen up to this point) basically entrenches the current code in slightly different language."
    • "It's not really fundamentally changing anything."
    • Concerned about possible working conditions/wage and benefit mandates getting added late in the process.
  • Process: "That stunt you guys pulled last Thursday, you should be ashamed."
    • "That was an appallingly lawless act."
    • "The state statute is crystal clear."
    • "This is the initial adoption of a zoning ordinance."
    • "State law on this topic could not be more clear."
    • "Honestly, the six of you who voted the way you did on that petition campaign should be criminally prosecuted."
      • "[T]hat will obviously never happen in this county."
  • Pessimistic and Disappointed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rick Perry?!? Crony Capitalism?!? Surely you jest....

"It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is stablished by justice."
Proverbs 16:12

As someone who watched both the good and the bad of Rick Perry up close for many years, this is one of the least surprising stories of all time:
WASHINGTON (AP) — At a West Virginia rally on tax cuts, President Donald Trump veered off on a subject that likely puzzled most of his audience.

“Nine of your people just came up to me outside. ‘Could you talk about 202?'” he said. “We’ll be looking at that 202. You know what a 202 is? We’re trying.”

One person who undoubtedly knew what Trump was talking about last month was Jeff Miller, an energy lobbyist with whom the president had dined the night before. Miller had been hired by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. His assignment: push the Trump administration to use a so-called 202 order — named for a provision of the Federal Power Act — to secure a bailout worth billions of dollars.


Miller is among them. A well-connected GOP fundraiser, he served in the past as an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a close friend. He ran Perry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016. And when Trump tapped Perry to lead the Energy Department, Miller shepherded his friend through confirmation, sitting behind him, next to the nominee’s wife, at the Senate hearing.

When Perry came to Washington, Miller did, too. He launched his firm, Miller Strategies, early last year and began lobbying his friend and other Washington officials.


Obst says the two began working closely together when Perry and Pence held leadership roles at the Republican Governors Association several years ago. “He’s very influential in Washington, a leading fundraiser,” Obst said of Miller in a brief interview.

Now, after 14 months in business, the 43-year-old has collected more than $3.2 million from a roster of clients that includes several of the nation’s largest energy companies, among them Southern Co., a nuclear power plant operator headquartered in Atlanta, and Texas-based Valero Energy, according to federal filings.
In fairness to Perry, no final decision has been made.  If this article can embarrass Perry into doing the right thing, so much the better.  But the fact that the process has even gotten this far is revealing.

Then there's the fact that this is such a typical Rick Perry move.  This is the Rick Perry of the Trans-Texas Corridor.  This is the Rick Perry of the HPV vaccine mandate.

Bottom Line: We like Rick.  But sometimes he acts like a typical Texas politician.  This is one.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

#atxcouncil: Adler busted Gaslighting about Job Growth

"A false witness shall not be unpunished: and he that speaketh lies, shall perish."
Proverbs 19:9

LOL, via politifact:
Austin’s mayor made a best-in-the-nation claim about local job gains that made us wonder.

Steve Adler, who seeks a second term in November 2018, was asked on KLBJ-AM’s morning May 8, 2018, "Todd and Don Show" about ending "the red tape and paperwork that businesses have to go through just to expand in this city."

Adler replied: "You ought to minimize the bureaucracy as much as you can. But we’re doing something right in this city, you guys have to admit, right? We’re creating more jobs than any other city in the country. We have an economy that’s on fire. I mean, we’re doing something right," Adler said, going on to agree that he also wasn’t trying to take personal credit for the gains.


Adler told the morning radio hosts that Austin is creating more jobs than any other U.S. city.

To the contrary, federal figures show the five-county Austin metropolitan area (not Austin alone) trails some other U.S. metros including the No. 1 Midland area for its pace of jobs gained and it lags more than 25 metro areas in raw jobs gained. It would be accurate to say the Austin area lately has enjoyed greater percentage job gains than other metro areas of 1 million residents or more.

We rate this Adler claim False.

Friday, May 25, 2018

#atxcouncil to Citizenry: Drop Dead

"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."
Matthew 24:12

It's not a secret that we support the goals of CodeNext.  It's also not a secret that we have zero confidence in the city's ability to produce a document that meets those alleged goals.  Finally, it's not a secret that we've been taking a wait and see approach.

Looks like our answer is becoming clearer:
The Austin City Council on Thursday voted against placing a petition ordinance on November’s ballot that would have asked if CodeNext should be put to a vote.

The vote sets up a likely legal challenge to the council’s action. Local attorney Fred Lewis, one of the leaders behind the petition that garnered more than 31,000 signatures, said after the vote that he would sue the city.

“The council, a majority never wanted the public to vote on CodeNext,” Lewis said. “So we will go to court and we will ask the court to respect the wishes of the voters and allow them to vote.”

The vote was 6-4 with council members Alison Alter, Ora Houston, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo against. Council Member Ellen Troxclair was absent from the meeting.
At this point, it's not even about the content (although that sucks too); it's about the lawlessness of the process.

The city's "reasoning" is based on a highly technical reading of the phrase "zoning."  According to those with whom we've spoken, the city's reasoning is...specious at best.  They're gaslighting via legalese.

The plain language of the statute in question states:
(a) Notwithstanding other requirements of this subchapter, the voters of a home-rule municipality may repeal the municipality's zoning regulations adopted under this subchapter by either:
(1) a charter election conducted under law;  or
(2) on the initial adoption of zoning regulations by a municipality, the use of any referendum process that is authorized under the charter of the municipality for public protest of the adoption of an ordinance.
[Note: Emphasis added.]
This is clearly a) an initial adoption, b) "any" referendum process, and c) public protest; anyone who claims otherwise is either a fool or a liar.

[Note: We did not know state law allows the option to repeal zoning entirely via. referendum; file that one away for a later date.]

Speaking of gaslighting, check out this gem:
Adler, in extended remarks on the legality of the petition ordinance, said he could not in good faith have placed the referendum on the ballot short of a court order.

“The easy thing to do here would be to put this on the ballot and walk away,” Adler said, “but that wouldn’t be right because it would be illegal. To me, that would be a denial to the oath of office I took. I wasn’t elected to do the easy thing; I was elected to do the hard thing and the right thing.”

[Note: Emphasis added]
That is some 1984-level newspeak; Adler took an oath to uphold the law of which he's now acting in clear violation.

Bottom Line: Hubris rarely works out well over time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

TPPF Report: Hotel Occupancy Taxes are Theft

"For the former governors that were before me, had been chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver: yea, and their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15


Taxes increase cost for Texas Travel

TPPF releases paper on hotel occupancy tax
AUSTIN – Today, ahead of a travel-heavy Memorial Day Weekend, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a paper on hotel occupancy taxes in Texas and the increased costs they add to tourism.

“Texans and out-of-state visitors must pay exorbitant taxes for overnight stays in hotels or short-term rentals,” said Carine Martinez-Gouhier, one of the paper’s authors 
and a research analyst in the Center for Economic Prosperity at TPPF. “As visitors seek to experience the beauty of the Lone Star State, they are required to financially ‘enhance and promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry’ through the hotel occupancy tax, but it really hurts local businesses instead. Without the tax, visitors could stay longer and spend more instead.”

The Texas hotel occupancy tax is levied at the state and local levels. Most accommodations are taxed at a rate between 6 and 17.5 percent. Texas’ largest cities have some of the highest rates in the nation.

“More information is needed to figure out the effect the tax has on Texas' economy,” Martinez-Gouhier. “Texas and its visitors would benefit from a repeal of the local hotel occupancy tax."
This is personally relevant. We just spent three days up in Arlington. The combined taxes increased the cost of our hotel by about 30%.

We also learned a few interesting points:
  • The state level hotel occupancy tax helps fund the Governor's various "major event" slush funds.
  • The Dallas convention center is one of the major recipients of local hotel occupancy taxes; you can read our "ode" to the Dallas Convention Center, from the 2016 RPT convention, here.
  • The notion of levying a tax to promote "economic development" is ass-backwards to begin with.
Finally, no discussion of hotel occupancy taxes is complete without recalling how Ellen Troxclair's MASTERFULLY outmaneuvered Mayor Adler last year.

Bottom Line: Hotel Occupancy Taxes should be abolished statewide.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

#TX2018 Runoff Results: Congressional races go well; State Rep races do not....

"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when thou turnest to the right hand, and when thou turnest to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

We've got some good news and some bad news:
We wrote about the stakes of the Congressional races on Monday.  We don't want to re-hash the same points here, but suffice to say that pulling the Texas delegation to the right could have a disproportionate impact on the entire Congress.  The Texas Observer made the same observation:
A new class of Texas tea-party darlings, buoyed by millions of dollars in outside spending, won their Republican congressional runoffs Tuesday — all in deep-red districts. Come January, that means the obstructionist wing of the U.S. House Republican conference — the Freedom Caucus — will add a few more Texas wingnuts to its ranks.
There's no sugarcoating the Texas house results.  We missed an opportunity.   There are a number of reasons why, but the biggest is that there are a lot of good ol' boys in this state who've been in charge for a long time and they do not want to give up their power.  The Texas house is their last island of power.

That being said, if you look at the legislature and this cycle as a whole, the long term trend continued.  We gained a new Senator, we gained 7 or 8 new house members (depending on November), and we're getting a new speaker.  Slow, steady, progress can be frustrating at times, but it'll get you where you need to go (eventually).

Bottom Line: To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, we didn't get everything we want this cycle, but we got what we need...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

South Texas Democrat County Judge Candidate (accidentally) BLOWS LID OFF of another Open Secret in Texas Politics

"For nothing is secret, that shall not be evident: neither anything hid, that shall not be known, and come to light."
Luke 8:17

A candidate in a hotly contested runoff to be a border county judge has turned himself in to police after he was accused of threatening to send a Mexican drug cartel after the county party chairman, according to authorities.

The election is Tuesday.

The candidate in the Democratic runoff for Maverick County judge, Rudy Bowles, left a voicemail Sunday afternoon for the chairman, Luis Ruiz, demanding a "list of the judges for each one of the precincts," Ruiz told police.

"I need to know right away," Bowles said. "If you don’t call me within 30 minutes, I am going to call the damn Zetas from across the river and they’re going looking for you, OK. Call me please, I don’t want to have to do that."
But don't you DARE suggest there's connections between Texas Democrats and organized crime!  Don't you know that's racist?!?  What's next?!?  Are you going to suggest there's rampant sexual harassment (and worse) in the Texas Legislature?!?

Bottom Line:  There aren't any connections between Texas Democrats and organized crime.  None at all.  Nothing to see here....

Monday, May 21, 2018

The most important national story at play in Texas tomorrow (since 538 whiffed)....

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1 (NIV)

We just read this embarassingly bad analysis from about the national stakes in Texas' Congressional runoffs. It's cliche-filled nonsense that, at best, illustrates the hazards of long distance punditry. 538 spends 80% of their time discussing the Democrats despite the fact that Democrats in Texas are irrelevant (unless they're being enabled by Republicans). Honestly, it's not even worth your time.

That being said, there is a national story brewing (for anyone who wants to pay attention): The Republican runoffs, and what they could mean for the Republican conference in the U.S. House.

No matter what happens tomorrow, conservatives are at least +2 in Congressional races in Texas this cycle. Van Taylor is going to replace Sam Johnson. And whoever wins CD-21 is going to be light years better than Lamar Smith. That's already two improvements.

The other four run-offs contrast Texas good ol' boy "Republicans" with grassroots conservatives. If conservatives have a good night tomorrow, it pulls the center of gravity in the Texas delegation significantly to the right. And, if the Texas delegation moves right, so does the Republican conference as a whole.

Those runoffs are below:
  • CD 2 (Ted Poe seat): Crenshaw (conservative) vs. Roberts (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 5 (Hensarling seat): Pounds (conservative) vs. Gooden (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 6 (Barton seat): Wright (conservative) vs. some hack (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 27 (Farenthold seat): Cloud (conservative) vs. Bruun (Good Ol’ Boy).
Right now, the Texas delegation has one solid conservative (Gohmert). It has a few reasonably decent members (eg. Hensarling, Ratcliffe, Roger Williams). The rest are good ol’ boy types.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how, as you replace good ol’ boys with conservatives, the Texas Delegation shifts to the right.

It also doesn’t take a genius to see how, as afore mentioned impact occurs, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the Republican conference.

[Note: With all due respect to our friends in the national media, if you just had to google the phrase “good ol’ boy,” you might want to refrain from commenting upon politics in this state.]

Bottom Line: There are several races in Texas tomorrow with potentially large national impact. But they’re happening on the Republican side, not the Democrat. If you want to understand how the national media missed Trump, THIS is how the national media missed Trump.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Comeback Begins....

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,"
Ephesians 2:8

Pop quiz hotshot: What if we were to tell you that there's something new coming out of the University of Texas and it's utterly, totally, completely, and unambiguously good?!?

We're talking, obviously, about the baseball team.

For those who aren't aware, the Longhorn baseball team just won their conference. With today's victory over TCU, combined with Oklahoma State's EPIC CHOKE against Tech, the Longhorns finished the regular season with the best record in Big 12 play. It was a long time in coming.

There's a lot we could say. There's a lot we probably will say. But the short version is that the 2018 Longhorn baseball team is the most interesting thing the athletic department has done since Colt McCoy graduated.

We know we're living on borrowed time until the UT Politburo figures out that the blogger "Cahnman" and the Longhorn Network Character "Heavy Metal David Ash" are the same person.  But before that day comes, there's something we need to say: For the first time in ages, we're happy.  The University has done something very, very, very right and we commend them for doing so.

Don't get us wrong: The University's most politically embarrassing days remain in front of it.  But the seeds of righteousness we started planting five years ago are beginning to bear fruit.  And we have a conference championship in baseball as proof.

Bottom Line: The University of Texas remains one of the most valuable brand names in the world.  Their athletic department just had its most significant accomplishment since Colt McCoy graduated.   And there's more coming....

Friday, May 18, 2018

CD 5: Pounds' honest wealth vs. Gooden's Pay to Play

"The riches of vanity shall diminish: but he that gathereth with the hand, shall increase them.
Proverbs 13:11

We tend to like the Texas Observer.  Even though they're liberal, they frequently do good work on areas like corporate welfare.  But yesterday's article about Bunni Pounds' work as a political fundraiser for conservative candidates is downright silly:
Thirteen days after the Plano party, Pounds made a big announcement: She was launching her own congressional bid. Pounds is running to replace retiring Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who personally tapped Pounds to take the Dallas-area 5th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2003. Her main qualification? For the better part of a decade, Pounds worked as the political fundraiser for Hensarling and, more recently, for a long list of other GOP candidates, including many prominent Texas conservatives like Van Taylor. On its website, Bunni Pounds & Associates claims to have raised more than $10 million for congressional candidates and “other political clients.” Pounds recently told NBC DFW that the goal of her company was to “make sure our conservative liberty-minded candidates were taken care of.”

She may be campaigning as a grassroots conservative, but she’s fishing for money from the same swampy ponds she frequented as Hensarling’s fundraiser.

Pounds worked as the chief fundraiser for Hensarling’s campaign as he rose to one of the most powerful positions in Washington: chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking and Wall Street. She also was the fundraiser for a PAC that Hensarling used to dole out funds to his GOP colleagues. A vehement advocate for extensive deregulation of the financial sector, Hensarling authored the Financial CHOICE Act, a bill that aims to cut the legs out from Dodd-Frank. Pounds was, in turn, charged with securing millions of dollars in contributions from donors, many of whom were in industries that had business before his committee.

After years of only raising money for Hensarling, Pounds set up her own political fundraising and consulting shop in 2015 and within two years had turned it into a half-a-million-dollar business with nine employees, according to her campaign website. The site also boasts that Pounds “is now seen as one of the top fundraisers in North Texas from Fort Worth all the way to Tyler.”

This background raises questions not only about Pounds’ qualifications for office, but about whose debt she’ll be in should she become a member of Congress. Groveling to donors day in and day out is enough to compromise your average politician, to say nothing of someone whose expertise that was before they became a politician.
And?!?  She had a certain set of views on public policy and she raised money from people with similar views on public policy to elect candidates with similar views on public policy.  That's called electioneering 101.

[Note: And, for the love of God, can somebody please explain to the peons at the Texas Observer that Wall St. actually LOVES Government Regulation?!?]

Contrast Bunni Pounds with her opponent:
His name is Monty Bennett, and it’s not even a little surprising that the Dallas hotelier wants to defeat Pounds. Her opponent in the May 22 GOP runoff election is state Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, who passed special interest legislation benefiting Bennett's East Texas ranch while receiving over $100,000 in campaign donations from him, records show.

Gooden’s personal financial statement on file with the Texas Ethics Commission also shows he owns a small slice of Henderson County property with Bennett. Campaign records show Bennett and his MJB Operating LP have given Gooden at least $140,000 for past legislative races, making him Gooden’s largest individual donor.

With the congressional race, Bennett’s critics are seeing a familiar pattern come to a head. Andy Jones, a small business owner who’s clashed with Bennett over property in Henderson County, said Bennett “throws money at everything” to get his way — and questioned whether he would have disproportionate influence over Gooden if elected to Congress.

"That makes me wary because that’s how he works — he buys folks," Jones, a Pounds supporter, said of Bennett’s history of giving generously to Gooden. "I’m afraid with so much money coming from one person — that those votes won’t be straight-up fair."


Bennett’s Henderson County ranch in deep East Texas has been at the center of a long-raging controversy pitting Bennett and Gooden against the Tarrant Regional Water District in Fort Worth. Bennett’s 1,000-acre Lazy W Ranch sits in the proposed path of a $2.3 billion, 150-mile pipeline that will carry water from East Texas to Dallas-Fort Worth, according to court documents.

Less than a year after the water district sought to enter Bennett's property to conduct a survey, Gooden quietly pushed a bill through the Legislature that helped Bennett fight the Tarrant Regional Water District's efforts to condemn a piece of his land for its pipeline.

The 2011 legislation, HB 3864, created the Lazy W District No. 1, a municipal utility district which court records say is comprised entirely of Bennett’s ranch. That has allowed Bennett’s Lazy W to assert “immunity as a governmental entity,” according to a Texas Supreme Court decision that took his side in a procedural fight in 2016.

In an email, Bennett said his and Gooden's joint ownership of an acre in Henderson County had “nothing to do” with the Lazy W District No. 1. Bennett is the president of the board of directors, state records show.

After creating the district, Gooden went to bat for Bennett in his battle to get records from the Tarrant water district, citing his prerogative as a member of the Legislature in 2014 to receive information — including “confidential information“ — as long as it’s used for legislative purposes.

Gooden’s campaign declined to answer a list of questions for this story, including why he owns property with his largest legislative donor and whether he thought Bennett would have undue influence over him if he gets elected to Congress.
Bottom Line:  Both of the candidates in this race have money, but they came about it differently.  Bunni Pounds voluntarily exchanged resources with those of a like mind.  Lance Gooden created a water district to benefit your biggest political donor (on a property where he had an ownership interest).  This does not seem like a difficult choice...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

So THAT's why the UT Board got a new chair last September....

"Let him that stole, steal no more: but let him rather labor, and work with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give unto him that needeth."
Ephesians 4:28

Associated "Republicans" of Texas is a longstanding Rino entity with close ties to the Bushes.  In recent years, it's become a key cog in Joe Straus' machine.  Buried deep in an article about their activities this election cycle, however, we noticed something interesting:
And two El Paso businessmen — ART board member Woody Hunt and Paul Foster, vice chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents — have also dumped in $450,000 and $250,000 since July, respectively.
But there's one detail the article missed: Paul Foster used to be the Chairman of the UT Board.

As the article discusses, ART's activities this cycle started to heat up in September, which got us thinking about another story from last September:
Tucker appointed Board of Regents chairman


AUSTIN—Regent Sara Martinez Tucker, appointed in 2015 by Governor Greg Abbott to a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents, was unanimously elected chairman of the board at a special called meeting Monday.

Tucker was nominated by Chairman Paul Foster, and the motion was seconded by Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. “It has been an immense honor to serve as chairman of the board these last four years, but it was time to pass the gavel to a new leader,” Foster said. “It was a pleasure to nominate Regent Tucker, who has brought great insight and guidance to the Board over the last two years. The UT System and all of its institutions are going to benefit greatly under her very capable leadership.”
As we noted at the time, the whole thing seemed strange.

Now we know why.

It also explains this story from December.

The best part: Foster's term is up this January, and there's zero chance Abbott re-appoints him after a stunt like this.

Bottom Line: Say what you will about Greg Abbott, but he does not take personal disloyalty lightly (and, in this case, that worked out for the best)....

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#atxcouncil: Alter's act of pointless virtue signaling to cost Austinites $500k....

"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil, and cleave unto that which is good."
Romans 12:9

We had noticed they were doing this last week.  We thought it was dumb but didn't give it a lot of thought.  Then we saw this:
The next time the Austin Police Department rearms its more than 1,900 sworn officers, taxpayers can expect to pay as much as half a million dollars more than the last time the department purchased new weapons.

Rather than trade in the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm handguns, the weapons will be destroyed unless an officer chooses to buy their handgun from the department, according to an ordinance passed with little discussion Thursday by the City Council.


The council did not ask the department to make a presentation at any time before the vote, nor did the department make a recommendation, according to Commander Mark Spangler, who is in charge of procuring ordinance as head of the APD Training Academy.


By trading in the old handguns, taxpayers saved $362,328. The department also expected to save $157,152 a year on its practice ammunition and $10,233 per year on its duty ammunition, he said.


Taxpayers can expect nothing in return as more than $1 million in sidearms will be destroyed, assuming none of the 1,908 sworn officers buys back his gun. Assuming the same savings as 2016, taxpayers will still be responsible for nearly $670,000 in firearms that will be destroyed.

Alter’s ordinance does not speak to the costs.
Here's the thing: Typically, we prefer to see them grandstand over national issues.  They don't have jurisdiction, and it takes up time that could otherwise be spent doing thinks like creating "sick leave" entitlements.  Or banning dockless scooters....

But, apparently, now we've gotten to the point where they cost us money even when they're grandstanding.

Bottom Line:  They've certainly done worse things, but this is highly obnoxious....

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Farenthold's New Gig Unintentionally Illustrates SEVERAL Problems with Texas' Good Ol' Boy Politics.

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

By now we assume you've heard about Blake Farenthold's new position as a taxpayer-funded lobbyist for some obscure port agency on the Gulf Coast.  We could say a lot about it.  Suffice to say, we share the disgust.

While we're tempted to wax emotional about the topic, it teaches several lessons.  While Farenthold's specific situation makes his case particularly appalling, the underlying conduct is not unusual.  It's not always this blatant, but the bad behavior is very common.

To wit:
  • Taxpayer Funded Lobbying -- This biggest problem with this set up is that taxpayer funded entities are allowed to hire lobbyists (or "legislative liaisons" or "governmental affairs specialists" or whatever the euphemism this week) in the first place.  Taxpayer funds should not be used to lobby against taxpayers.  Period.

    Once that disgraceful practice is permitted, you shouldn't be surprised when it's used disgracefully.
  • Obscure Local Governments -- Question: Had you ever heard of the "Calhoun Port Authority"?!?  Neither had we.  But it's there.

    Texas is littered with corrupt, obscure, entities back by the power of the state.  Nobody can keep track of them all.  But they all have power to tax.  And they can all hire lobbyists.

    And they all have employees (most of whom receive taxpayer funded pensions).
  • The "Revolving Door" -- In both the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress, former members are allowed to lobby current members as soon as they leave the body.  That should be banned.  But, at a minimum, there should be a "cooling off period" of at least two (and, realistically, more like five) years.
  • No Consequences for EGREGIOUSLY bad sexual behavior -- The financial stuff should be enough to condemn this arrangement, but questionable financial practices aren't the main reason Blake Farenthold left Congress.

    The main reason Blake Farenthold left Congress is because, as a married man in his mid-50's, he ("allegedly") made regular gratuitous sexualized commentary to female staffers in their 20's.

    Yet nobody cares.
Bottom Line: While Farenthold's case is particularly blatant, the underlying "business model" is common.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Congressional candidates silent as Federal Courts (once again) mess with Texas' election laws

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8

We've discussed previously how Congress has the authority to shut down the various, ongoing, Federal lawsuits against Texas' election laws.  We've also discussed how the failure to do so is one of the biggest marks against Texas' congressional delegation.  That remains the case.

During the 2018 election cycle, we've discussed how shutting down this nonsense would be one of the easiest ways for a candidate to stand out.  We've also discussed how that's not happening.  That also continues.

In that context, we present last week's news out of San Antonio:
Texas has less than a week to tell a federal judge in San Antonio how it will begin complying with the National Voter Registration Act, a decades-old federal law aimed at making it easier for people to register to vote by forcing states to allow registration while drivers apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled more than a month ago that Texas was violating the law, sometimes called the Motor Voter Act, by not allowing Texas drivers to register to vote when they update their driver’s license information online. But it wasn’t clear until this week what exactly state officials would have to do to address that — and by when they’d have to do it.

Now, Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project — which sued the state over the issue in 2016, saying Texas’ current system disenfranchised thousands of voters and violated the U.S. Constitution — have until Thursday to propose a detailed fix for the system. After that, Garcia will weigh the proposals and order a remedy.
And what, pray tell, has been the response of the Republicans in Texas's congressional delegation?!?  Nothing.

Likewise, what has been the response of the candidates for the various runoffs for the various Congressional seats?!?  Likewise nothing.

The place where this is most infuriating is CD-21.  Chip McCall and Matt Roy are both solid conservatives going to ridiculous lengths.  Well, here's a local issue, starring a Clinton appointed judge.  This is the lowest of low hanging fruit.  Yet, neither seems interested.  We'll probably get more childish name calling.

Bottom Line: Early voting began this morning; if any candidate looking for late momentum wants to pick it up, it's sitting right in front of their face.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hensarling Endorses Pounds

"Iron sharpeneth iron, so doth man sharpen the face of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17

From the Inbox:

Congressman Jeb Hensarling


As I'm sure you know at year's end I'll be stepping down as your Congressman. As I exit public life, I've had no greater privilege in life than to fight for freedom in the U.S. Congress over the past 15 years — leading the charge against the Wall Street bailout, against wasteful earmarks like the "Bridge to Nowhere," and to work alongside President Trump to secure our border once and for all. It's a record that has earned a 97% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, and I thank the people of the 5th District for entrusting me with what I consider a sacred trust.

The race to succeed me as your Republican nominee will be settled on May 22nd, and the stakes could not be higher. After taking some time to look at the actual records of Lance Gooden and Bunni Pounds, I was shocked by the contrast.

When Lance Gooden recently told an audience, "I did not run to be a Republican platform value upholder," his record proves that he meant it.

According to numerous conservative and independent organizations, Lance Gooden consistently ranks among the most liberal GOP House members in Austin.He's ranked the 5th most liberal Republican in the Texas legislature, and he can't even qualify for membership in the Texas Conservative Coalition — an organization comprised of the vast majority of his Republican colleagues.

• Gooden aligned with the position of Planned Parenthood and voted to kill legislation that would have banned certain late term abortions.

• Gooden worked to defeat Governor Abbott's effort to bring relief to
homeowners from what the Governor called "the skyrocketing rise in property taxes."

• Gooden has received contributions from the AFL-CIO which is
advocating for the Obama DACA program and amnesty.

Fortunately, there is a choice. Bunni Pounds has resided in the 5th Congressional District for over 16 years, and I've known her for over a decade. She is a conservative stalwart and a successful small businesswoman. I know her courage and her integrity. I know her commitment to freedom, life, economic opportunity, the 2nd Amendment, and to securing our borders. She will be a champion for our cause like few others.

Furthermore, Bunni has been endorsed by a number of strong conservatives, including Vice President Mike Pence. Vice President Pence endorsed Bunni because he knows she'll work with him and the president to "Make America Great Again." In fact, on a recent trip to Dallas the Vice President asked to meet with Bunni specifically to discuss ways she can help advance the Trump agenda. If you have supported me and if you support President Trump and Vice President Pence, don't be fooled by the conservative words of liberal Lance Gooden. Please support President Trump and Vice President Pence by sending them an ally. On May 22nd, please vote for Bunni Pounds. You'll be proud you did.

Yours Respectfully,

Bottom Line: Honestly, we're kind of shocked to see a sitting Congressman admit that the Texas House of Representatives is filled with liberals. But we'll take it. Go Jeb Hensarling.

Friday, May 11, 2018

UT Regents use McRaven's departure as excuse to create new SLUSH FUND....

"Promising unto them liberty, and are themselves the servants of corruption: for of whomsoever a man is overcome, even unto the same is he in bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

Ssssay what?!?
An endowment made in the names of McRaven and his wife, Georgeann, has received more than $1 million in donations, which will be for the use of future chancellors.
Which begs the natural follow up question: "for the use of future chancellors" do what exactly?!?

Perhaps they could purchase land in Houston?!?

Or maybe they could tell bald-faced lies about their military service?!?

On the other hand, it's privately funded and there's no law against gullible rich people spending money stupidly.

Bottom Line: Nothing good is going to come from this....

Thursday, May 10, 2018

[Liberal New Yorker Reporter] Lawrence Wright calls Hispanic Texans "Poor" and "Poorly Educated"

"Speak no more presumptuously: let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him enterprises are established."
1 Samuel 2:3

Lawerence Wright is an Austin-based writer for the New Yorker Magazine.  Last summer, he wrote an embarrassingly bad article about the Texas legislature.  He's now written a book expanding on that 2017 article.

This morning, Wright spoke with the Trib:

Wright's performance was as smug and tendentious as one would expect.  He was long on lazy narratives and short on facts.  However, one comment stood out.  At the 34:43 mark, Wright made the following comment about why Hispanic voter turnout in Texas lags Anglos:
Who doesn't vote?!?  It's the young, the poor, and the poorly educated.  And there are a lot of Hispanics in that category.
Well, isn't THAT quite the broad generalization: "You'd behave EXACTLY the way we want you to if you weren't so poor and stupid."

This despite the FACT that, in terms of both economic and educational attainment, Hispanic Texans outperform their peers in states where their voter turnout numbers are higher.

Imagine if a Republican had said that.

The irony, of course, is that Wright's first statement about Hispanic voter turnout being lower because their population is younger is basically accurate.  But Wright couldn't leave it at "young."  He had to take it to "poor" and "poorly educated."

Bottom Line: If you want to know why the "Hispanic voting surge" that Texas Democrats have been banking on for the past decade has yet to materialize, Lawrence Wright's comments this morning would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

#TXLEGE: Kolkhorst belatedly makes vague, open-ended, promise re: Senate Sexual Misconduct policy

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

[Note: You can read what we said last December about the house's new policy here, and the Senate's lack of interest here.]

Via The Texas Observer:
In the weeks after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were made against two Texas senators last year, their colleagues called for “zero tolerance” and said changes “must happen now.” Five months later, lawmakers still haven’t updated the Senate’s 23-year-old, one-page policy, which doesn’t establish a formal process for investigating complaints.

“For months, there have been rumors that a revised policy will be released for the Senate to review, but it hasn’t happened,” Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, wrote in an email. “We haven’t received any word about next steps, if there will be future public hearings, or how the Senate will adopt changes to our policy.” Asked when an updated policy is expected, Watson wrote, “At this time, I have no expectations.”

Shortly after the Daily Beast published the allegations against Democratic state Senators Carlos Uresti and Borris Miles in early December, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tasked Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, with reviewing and updating the Senate’s policy on sexual misconduct. “I understand there are rumors, innuendos and allegations in both the House and Senate about both members and staff having inappropriate behavior. Sexual harassment should not and will not be tolerated in the Texas Senate,” Kolkhorst told the Observer at the time.

Still, at a December 14 meeting of the Senate Administration Committee, which Kolkhorst chairs, senators heard only from the Secretary of the Senate and the head of human resources. Not once were senators Miles and Uresti mentioned by name during the hearing.

“It was surprising to me that … no time was given to the public for testimony,” Senator Sylvia Garcia said of the hearing in an email to the Observer. “We should allow the public to be heard in a meaningful way and that must be in an additional public hearing.”

Since then, Kolkhorst has met with staff from every senator’s office to discuss the issue and performed “an exhaustive review” of policies from other states and state agencies, she told the Observer this month. “A revised Senate policy will be reviewed and released in the near future,” she wrote in an email. Asked for a more specific timeline, her office did not respond.
To which we will add: In our conversations with Senate sources, we've been appalled at the...lack of a sense of urgency...this topic generates (and we're putting it very politely).

Furthermore, while Uresti has become persona-non-grata since his criminal conviction, Miles has suffered no consequences.

Of course, that's the reason why we're carrying our sexual misconduct convention resolution.

Bottom Line: See no evil....

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Which Texas REPUBLICAN Congressman Wants to STAY IN THE IRAN DEAL?!?

"Son of men, set thy face against Gog, and against the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,"
Ezekiel 38:2

WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, reaction from Congress fell largely along party lines, with Republicans applauding the move and Democrats warning of grave international consequences.

But at least one Texan – and an important one on foreign policy issues – offered a more nuanced statement, suggesting that the Trump administration should have waited longer to see if the deal could be improved.

"I have no doubt that the [Iran deal] was flawed and that for years Iran has been deceptive about its nuclear and other programs," said U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, who chairs the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. "My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal, but now that the president has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities."

"One is to further enhance our own military capabilities," the Clarendon Republican added. "The other is to strengthen our alliances. A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas."
The Iran deal offered nothing good to anyone.  We were essentially bribing the Iranians not to develop nuclear weapons at a time when they were lying to us and developing nuclear weapons.  The only consequence of getting out of the deal is that we stop giving them money.

Bottom Line: It's a bizarre position to take, but duly noted for a future primary.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Cornyn disgracefully throws Paxton under the bus

"O serpents, the generation of vipers, how should ye escape the damnation of hell!"
Matthew 23:33

What a scumbag:
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has been looking for an immigration fix for years. But he doesn’t see one in Texas’ efforts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that offers temporary status to hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants.

“I honestly don’t understand what the state is asking for” in filing a lawsuit to stop the program, Cornyn said Friday in Dallas. “Right now, the issue looks like it’s going all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. They’re gonna decide whether DACA can be ended.”

In September, President Donald Trump moved to end DACA, prompting several legal challenges that are moving forward. Cornyn believes that Trump’s actions will be upheld, which will make it more urgent for Congress to act -- no matter what happens with Texas’ lawsuit.

“I’m not sure what else this does,” Cornyn, who serves as the Senate majority whip, said about the suit. “It’s not a solution.”

On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit to end DACA, which was joined by six other states. He noted that Texas led a successful challenge to a similar program known as DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

“Our lawsuit is about the rule of law, not the wisdom of any particular immigration policy,” Paxton said.
There's a word that would perfectly describe what John Cornyn is being here.  But it's a swear word and we know how about a third of our readership feels about swear words [Note: Please, No Facebook messages].  So won't say it, but it's accurate.

It's also worth pointing out that Cornyn was a major supporter of Dan Branch in 2014.

Bottom Line: The 2020 cycle cannot get here quickly enough....

Saturday, May 5, 2018

McCall and Roy are BOTH acting like FOUR YEAR OLDS

"When I was a child, I spake as a child: I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
1 Corinthians 13:11

This is dumb:

This is even dumber:

Here's the thing: We've known BOTH Matt McCall and Chip Roy for several years.  They are BOTH solid.  That's why this has been depressing to watch.

And it's not just this Cambridge Analytica/Nancy Pelosi kerfuffle.  Attacking Chip Roy as some sort of "Washington insider" is asinine (the man worked for Ted friggin' Cruz).  Likewise, attacking Matt McCall as a "government contractor" is equally stupid.

Bottom Line: We suppose, with so little difference between the candidates on issues, it was inevitable that minuscule distinctions would get blown out of proportion; we could still do without the childish name calling.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Update on the original UT admissions Scandal

"He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper: but he that confesseth, and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."
Proverbs 28:13

All these years later, the indefatigable Jon Cassidy remains on top of the admissions scandal:
The University of Texas bestowed a Presidential Citation this week on an evidence-shredding administrator who was instrumental in the secret backdoor admissions program that cost former President Bill Powers his job.

Nancy Brazzil, the deputy to UT president Greg Fenves and Powers before him, was named as one of four winners of the award this year.

“The Presidential Citations are awarded to the most exceptional friends of our university — the people who invest their time, passion and resources into our students and faculty, so Longhorns can go out and change the world,” Fenves said in a statement.

Brazzil ran the backdoor admissions program for Powers. In the Kroll report on the admissions office scandal, her name is mentioned 84 times.

Brazzil was the one who placed “Q holds” on the applications of special candidates supported by lawmakers, regents, and wealthy donors. Each year, she placed up to 300 of these holds, which prevented the admissions office from rejecting an unqualified candidate.

“In sit-down meetings between the Admissions Director and Nancy Brazzil before the decision deadline each year, Admissions was essentially ‘forced to admit’ many of these applicants over the objection of Admissions, including some applicants who, in this former official’s opinion, clearly did not qualify for admission,” according to the Kroll report.

“Because written records or notes of meetings and discussions between the President’s Office and Admissions are not maintained and are typically shredded, it is not known in particular cases why some applicants with sub-par academic credentials were placed on a hold list and eventually admitted,” the report states.


In the report, the former dean of the law school, Larry Sager, says that he received 10 to 20 calls a year from Brazzil meant to sway his admissions decisions.


While Brazzil operated as Powers’ right hand, she also interacted directly with politicians such as former state Rep. Dan Branch and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, whose influence over education budgets in the Legislature gave them special clout with Brazzil.

After Fenves replaced Powers, he chose to keep Brazzil on in a similar function. In the citation, he even touts how Brazzil “works closely with high-profile friends of the university, legislators and major donors, helping them find innovative ways to contribute to UT’s advancement.”
Bottom Line: Considering the escalating series of debacles over the past couple years, providing favorable admissions treatment to the unqualified children of powerful legislators and their donors seems almost quaint.  But it happened.  And they're still doubling down on the cover up.