Monday, December 31, 2018

O'Rourke belatedly makes not bad point about the border

"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath"
James 1:19

(Soon-to-be-former) Congressman O'Rourke recently released a video about the border:

The video has received a fair amount of commentary, but there's one point on which we want to linger:

He's...not wrong.

Illegal border crossings have been declining for a decade.  More of today's illegal immigration comes from visa overstays.  If were serious about solving illegal immigration, it's a point we'd be wise to remember.

It's also, if you're looking for a credible alternative to the current narrative about border security, not a bad point to hammer.

Still, coming from O'Rourke this is...a missed best.

This is a guy who just subjected us to a year and a half long campaign.  During said campaign, he could have driven a more intelligent discussion of border security.  Instead, he gave us cliches and vague platitudes.  We might not have voted for him, but it would have made the U.S. Senate campaign less dumb.

Bottom Line: He's not wrong, but it sure would have been nice if he'd started making this point a year and a half ago....

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Sec'y of State can (quickly) CLEAN UP Texas Elections

"Do not remove the ancient landmark,
Nor enter the fields of the fatherless;"
Proverbs 23:10

Cahnman's Musings signed onto the following coalition letter calling for several simple solutions to enhance election integrity:

Friday, December 28, 2018

Paxton prosecutors pound table to preserve taxpayer funded gravy train

"For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Galatians 6:8

They've already lost, but they never stop:
In a fiery filing that amounts to a legal Hail Mary, the attorneys appointed to prosecute Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton implored the state’s highest criminal court to take the unusual step of considering their case again because last month’s opinion yielded “a patently absurd result.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in November that a six-figure payment originally approved for the special prosecutors was outside legal limits — a move that boosted Paxton and threatened to derail the case against him, as the prosecutors had indicated they might withdraw if they could not be paid. A month later, the prosecutors have asked the court to reconsider their decision in a crucial case “where the ‘x’ axis of justice and the ‘y’ axis of politics intersect.”

Rehearing, they argued in a filing last week, is critical for ensuring that the high court’s proceedings “appear fair to all who observe them.”


In the motion for rehearing, which includes references to Atticus Finch, Shakespeare, Gilbert & Sullivan and the impending “Sword of Damocles,” the prosecutors implore the state’s highest criminal court to take the unusual step of considering their case again because last month’s opinion yields “a patently absurd result” that would pay the special prosecutors “unconscionable” rates.
The word "unconscionable" that tells you what you need to know.   The Court of Criminal Appeals' decision might be misguided or short sighted for any number of reasons.  But it doesn't take a genius to see how the court could reach its decision in good conscience.  To use the word "unconscionable" illustrates the prosecutors'...high sense of self regard.

Bottom Line: If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.  If the law is one your side, pound the law.  If neither is on your side, pound the table.  Clearly, the special prosecutors are pounding the table.


That being said, the full filing from the prosecutors is hilarious; we highly recommend reading the whole thing:

Brian Wice is silly by on Scribd

Thursday, December 27, 2018

#TXLEGE: From Triage to Long Term Wellness for Texas Prosperity

"A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

TPPF just released the agenda for Policy Orientation; the Day 1 agenda includes almost perfectly sequenced short, medium, and long-term priorities.

Short Term: School Finance
The School Finance Commission Report is Out! What’s Next?

The School Finance Commission has finally spoken and experts on both sides have examined the recommendations. Find out how the proposal came together and which ones the Texas Legislature are likely to consider, pass, or ignore.

Confirmed Panelists:
  • Larry Taylor - Texas State Senator, Texas Senate 
  • Sagar Desai - Chief Operating Officer, Commit Partnership
  • Scott Brister - Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP / Commission on Public School Finance
The current school finance system hemorrhages money.  That hemorrhaging creates a macroeconomic drag on the entire state (mostly through property taxes).  A more efficient system of school finance would relieve it.

Medium Term: Housing Costs
Priced Out of House and Home: Texas’ Affordability Crisis Home prices are outpacing Texans’ ability to pay. 
To what extent, if any, do local government taxes, fees and regulations contribute to the housing affordability problem, and what is the proper role of the Texas Legislature in addressing this problem?

Confirmed Panelists:
  • Bill Hammond (MODERATOR) - CEO, Bill Hammonds and Associates 
  • Emily Hamilton - Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University 
  • Travis Mitchell - Mayor, City of Kyle, Texas 
  • Geoffrey Tahuahua - Vice President of Policy & Government Affairs, Real Estate Council of Austin 
  • Lourdes Castro-Ramirez - President, University Health System Foundation
Rent/Mortgage is the largest component of most Texans' budgets.  Unfortunately, government policies increase those costs in a variety of ways.  Removing artificial cost drivers would liberate capital currently being held hostage.

Long Term: More Responsible Citizenry
Parenting in Freedom or Fear

Despite Texans fierce independent streak, raising children with limited parental supervision to encourage independence has become controversial. Can Texas parents grant their children freedom without running afoul of the law? How can lawmakers protect parental rights, while also ensuring child welfare?

Confirmed Panelists:
  • Lenore Skenazy - President, Let Grow and Founder, Free-Range Kids 
  • Corey Widen - Parent 
  • Trevor Woodruff - Deputy Commissioner, Department of Family & Protective Services
All of the above being said, none of it matters without a citizenry that can take care of itself.  Parents must be free to raise responsible citizens without legal reprisal.  Unless parents are free to raise responsible citizens, socialism is inevitable.

Bottom Line: From next session, to the next decade, to the next generation we still have a lot of opportunities (if we're smart); we should take them.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Did Cornyn just, unintentionally, open up a new lane for a primary?!?

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."
Philippians 2:3

On Monday, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram ran a hatchet job story about how Texas' federal officials are reacting to the state level lawsuit against Obamacare.

From John Cornyn:
“People ought to just take a deep breath and see what the Supreme Court does, maybe in a couple years from now,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican. He’s up for re-election in 2020.
In other words, John Cornyn wants to do ** LITERALLY NOTHING** to address health care until some vaguely defined point in the future.

How typically Cornyn.

Of course, whatever baggage exists from the health care fights of the past decade, none of it changes the fact that health care remains one of the biggest economic/social policy challenges we face.

Sure would be nice if our elected officials would address it.


That being said, Cornyn's admission he's comfortable with the status quo creates an opportunity.

If a credible candidate were to challenge Cornyn on a platform of fixing the health care just might work.

Such a campaign would be forward looking.  It wouldn't be about punishing the mistakes of the past.  It would be about seizing the opportunities of the next decade.

Such a campaign also wouldn't, really, be about Cornyn.  It would be about fixing one of the biggest economic challenges Texans face.  To the extent Cornyn was discussed, it would be more in sorrow than in anger.

The temptation is to go after Cornyn as a traitorous RINO.  That's because it's true.  But that sort of messaging has a ceiling, and that sort of campaign would be doomed to failure.

Earlier this month, we splashed cold water on the idea of a Cornyn challenge.  But that's a Cornyn challenge in the context of the preceding paragraph.  What we're talking about now is different.

A disciplined, forward looking, campaign to fix the health care system might just work.


It should be noted that we don't have a clue who to run as a candidate.


Bottom Line: Based on his comment Monday, Cornyn clearly isn't interested in moving the ball forward on health care.  But the public still cares about that issue...a lot.  If a credible candidate were to credibly address the issue, it just might work.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Thoughts on the new Longhonrn Basketball Arena

"Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David."
1 Kings 6:12

Well this is all sorts of interesting:
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and a group led by the Oak View Group (OVG) will build a world-class arena on campus that will be home to Texas Men's and Women's basketball games, graduations, concerts and other events. It is expected to be opened in 2021.

The innovative 35-year agreement between UT and ArenaCo — which includes OVG, Live Nation, C3 Presents and Matthew McConaughey — will be groundbreaking in college athletics and provide a public benefit for UT and the City of Austin for decades to come. The $338 million venue will be constructed on land fully owned by UT without using any university or public money.

The arena will be located on a current parking lot south of Mike A. Myers Stadium. It will replace the 41-year-old Frank C. Erwin Center, which will make way for the future expansion of the Dell Medical School. UT may be responsible for certain infrastructure improvements near the site to make it ready for construction.


The 10,000-seat arena will provide an intimate, state-of-the-art men's and women's Longhorn basketball fan experience and feature student seating surrounding the court. Much like how the Erwin Center currently operates, the new venue will be a prime location for university, campus, community and high school events. Additionally, the new arena is designed to expand to 15,000 seats and will provide a world-class venue for touring concerts and shows.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

  • That no public or university funds will be used in constructing the area is awesome.  There's also (unlike certain other local sports related construction projects) no land giveaway.  In other words, this might actually be a good deal for the public!!!
  • We didn't realize the Erwin Center's age.
  • The fluctuating seating capacity alleviates our biggest concern.  10,000 seats is plenty for the overwhelming majority of basketball games.  As long as they're willing to use the extra seating capacity when a major opponent comes to town (eg. Kansas or OU), ticket prices should remain reasonable.
  • Shaka's seat just got a lot hotter.  Ain't no way the university will be satisfied with the current inconsistent play heading into a new arena.  Rebuilds take time.  Three years is just enough time for a new coach to implement his system.
Bottom Line: Time will tell if this proposal ends up being too good to be true, but at first glace it looks pretty awesome.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

#TXLEGE: Income Tax fight is important Economically (and smart politics)

"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

Jeff Leach and Greg Abbott made interesting news this week:
AUSTIN -- Months after Gov. Greg Abbott floated the idea of changing the Texas constitution to eliminate the possibility of a state income tax, a Plano lawmaker has filed a resolution in the Legislature that would do just that.

"We must continue to pursue and advance policies that protect and strengthen the Texas Miracle, starting with ensuring that Texans can keep and control more of their hard-earned tax dollars in their own pockets," State Rep. Jeff Leach said in a news release Tuesday.

He said he wanted to make sure that "Texas taxpayers are protected from the possibility of the creation of a personal income tax - which would have disastrous effects on the future of our great state."

The news release carried a show of support from Abbott.

"Texans know far better than government how to spend their own money," Abbott said in the release. "That's why I applaud Representative Jeff Leach's proposal to amend the Constitution and forever eliminate the possibility of a state income tax. I look forward to working with Representative Leach to ensure Texas remains the best place to live and work."
This is smart.

Substantively,  constitutional prohibition of an income tax makes tremendous sense during a discussion of school finance.  In the past, bad things have happened when the legislature has tried to "solve" school finance.  That's how we ended up with the margins tax in the first place.  We really should constitutionally prohibit the worst tax policy mistake we might be tempted to make.

The politics of this issue are fantastic.  The issue is simple and easy for voters to understand.  Any potential contrast would likely be obvious.

None of the Democrats elected last fall want to take this vote.  Such a vote forces them to choose between their educrat/public sector union coalition and taxpayers.  In other words, Democrats would have to choose between their voters and the people who fund their campaigns.

Bottom Line: You might get long-term certainty on tax policy.  If not, you get a campaign issue.  Either is a win.

Friday, December 21, 2018

#TXLEGE: The case for THREE Legislative Priorities (in less than a sentence)

"Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will listen and hear for the time to come?"
Isaiah 42:23

Ken Zafiris is a local Trotskyiste gadfly.  The Sean Penn look-a-like is, basically, the Fidel Castro of the Austin ISD teacher's union.  Given this background, Zafiris' recent comments about the relationship between the Austin ISD budget and next legislative session are very interesting.

Specifically, Zafiris wants to force upon Austin ISD taxpayers:
 Prioritizing compensation increases for all employees, not just teachers; and 
 Proactive lobbying of lawmakers during the critical legislative session.
Zafiris wants to use classroom teachers as human shields to demand payoff to the bureaucracy.  Then, he wants to outsource his lobbying costs to taxpayers!  All while his union has their dues collection subsidized by taxpayers.

"For the children," natch.

Bottom Line: Should we congratulate him on hitting the anti-taxpayer trifecta?!?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission: An ABOMINATION (only the Booze Lobby could love)....

"envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Galatians 5:21

Yesterday, TPPF released a report detailing the failures of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission alongside proposed reforms the current sunset process can implement .  It wasn't pretty.  Highlights:
“TABC and the Alcoholic Beverage Code rely on outdated, Prohibition-era regulations that create inconsistent treatment between tiers and give one tier— the middle tier—tremendous power over the other two,” said Policy Analyst Carine Martinez-Gouhier. “The Sunset Staff Report generally goes in the right direction of a freer market, but some of its recommendations, unfortunately, go the opposite way, adding burdens and costs for businesses, and giving TABC additional regulatory authority, which would result in less, not more, consumer well-being. The deregulation of the alcoholic beverage industry would generate competition between all three tiers, which would benefit consumers in the process.”

The paper makes recommendations for improvements within the TABC and the Alcoholic Beverage Code while encouraging movement toward a freer market.

“Removing other responsibilities from TABC, such as the de­velopment and maintenance of a Special Response Team, would prevent the use of its limited resources for disaster relief or search and rescue operations for which it was never intended and allow it focus on enforcement of the Alcoholic Beverage Code that falls outside the abilities of local law enforcement agencies,” said Senior Researcher Randy Petersen.

Key Points:
  • TABC and the Alcoholic Beverage Code rely on outdated, Prohibition-era regulations. 
  • The three-tier system imposes a middleman, which gives one tier tremendous power over others. 
  • Inconsistent treatment of upper tier actors with no benefit for public safety needs to be addressed. 
  • A freer market will create more competition between all three tiers, leading to more and safer choices for consumers, lower prices, and better economic growth for the industry.
The TPPF report details a number of common sense free market reforms.  All of which would lead to greater choice for, and lower costs to, consumers.

Unfortunately, all of them threaten the booze lobby's government-mandated monopoly profits.

Thus, reform's chances are...uncertain at best.

Bottom Line: Next year's TABC sunset re-authorization is an interesting point of leverage. Unless you benefit from government protected monopoly profits, the status quo is indefensible. Solutions, meanwhile, are obvious.  It will be interesting to see if anyone takes advantage....


The Full TPPF Report:

TABC Sunset Report by on Scribd

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

#TXLEGE: Is Schwertner in Deep Doo Doo?!?

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

Hoo Boy:
AUSTIN — The University of Texas completed its investigation on Tuesday into whether State Sen. Charles Schwertner sent sexually explicit messages — including photos of his genitals — to a student, issuing a report that neither fully incriminates nor clears the Georgetown Republican of wrongdoing.

The same afternoon, responding to a public record request, the university released the offensive text messages and LinkedIn messages that led to the probe. Schwertner told a UT investigator that the texts came from his accounts, but were sent by a person he knows and shared his user information with, but refused to identify.

Schwertner and his attorneys said the report served as vindication for their claims that he was innocent.

"I do not condone sexual misconduct of any kind. The University of Texas has closed their investigation because I did not send the offensive text messages in question," Schwertner said in a prepared statement.

The university reported it could not prove Schwertner sent the offensive messages, and a forensic investigation found that they did not come from his phone. However, the messages did come from Schwertner's Hushed account, a privacy app that allows people to send messages from separate phone numbers, and his LinkedIn account.

The UT investigation also described Schwertner as uncooperative and unwilling to be interviewed or answer questions about whether he had other electronic devices where the messages could have originated.

Schwertner's attorneys said in a statement that they prevented him from being interviewed by the university because they considered the school's investigative process unfair.

An attorney purporting to represent a mysterious third party, whose identity was never revealed to the investigators, at some point claimed responsibility for sending the messages. Schwertner told investigators he knew this unidentified person, and shared his user name and passwords with the individual, but refused to reveal their identity in the investigation.

The university investigative report acknowledged that the unnamed person might not exist.

"We recognize that it is plausible that the Respondent [Schwertner] sent the text messages and photograph from a device other than his personal cell phone and the third person claiming responsibility is being untruthful or does not exist, but we have no evidence to support those possibilities," the investigation summary reads.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Yikes; this story looks worse every time we re-read it.

Two possibilities exist.  Either Schwertner is lying.  Or, he could be telling the truth.  Neither is good.

If Schwertner is lying, then a 48 year old male elected official sent lewd photographs to a female college student seeking professional advice.

That would be awful.

But consider what it would mean if Schwertner's telling the truth:
  • Schwertner engages in enough encrypted communication with an unnamed third party that he gave the unnamed third party access to his encryption account.
    • Who does that?!?
  • Schwertner also gave the unnamed third party access to his LinkedIn account.
    • Again, who does that?!?
  • The third party in question had a motive to burn Schwertner in the most publicly humiliating way possible.
    • What, as yet unknown, behavior on Schwertner's part could have produced such a motive?!?
  • Even after having been burned in the most publicly humiliating way possible, Schwertner still refuses to identify the third party.
Pick your poison; neither one is good.


That being said, this political cheap shot from the Democrats is cute:
On Tuesday evening, Texas Democrats jumped on the results of the report.

"These are not the actions of an innocent man," said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal Perkins. "Sen. Charles Schwertner is a liar and clearly unfit to serve in elected office."
Shut up.

You people haven't done a damn thing about Borris Miles.  You didn't lift a damn finger about Carlos Uresti until after a separate criminal conviction.  Yet, now you want to lecture the rest of us on sexual propriety?!?  Puh-leeze.

In a just world, Borris Miles and Charles Schwertner should probably both go.

In the real world, now that they're the political equivalent of "mutually assured destruction," Miles and Schwertner probably get away with everything.  We don't like it.  But that's reality.


Bottom Line: You know it's a bad situation when you can't tell whether lying or telling the truth is worse....

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

#TXLEGE: Texas' Obamacare Victory Opens INTRIGUING Possibilities

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Via Lauren McGaughy:
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas will work to pass its own health care law to replace the Affordable Care Act if it's ultimately struck down in the courts.

After Friday's ruling by a Fort Worth judge that struck down the federal health care law, Abbott said Monday he will consult with the Trump administration on immediate next steps while state lawmakers and regulators fashion their own plan to succeed it.

"As the ACA lawsuit goes through the appellate process, Texas will work with the administration to get appropriate waivers from federal law allowing insurers to provide coverage at lower rates while ensuring that Texans with pre-existing conditions continue to have access to quality health care," Abbott said.

"Additionally, Texas will begin the process of reforming state regulations and proposing changes to laws that will achieve those same goals. Importantly, Texas will strive to expand health care insurance coverage, reduce the cost of health care and ensure that Texans with pre-existing conditions are protected."

Abbott then tweeted Texas would "be ready with replacement health care insurance that includes coverage for preexisting conditions."


"It's time to get started now, not to wait for the ultimate outcome of this case," Rob Henneke, general counsel of the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation, said in a call with reporters Monday morning. When Texas lawmakers convene their 2019 session in January, he said, they should be "looking at the issue of pre-existing conditions. We need to look at ways of creating guaranteed-protection pools."

Henneke added that states should prioritize "market-based solutions but also regulations that will provide for choice."
Good.  The Texas GOP's lack of vision on health care has been driving this author insane for several years.  This is true at both the state and federal levels.

Obviously, the medical establishment will fight reform. what?!?  In the language of godawful Capitol euphemisms, now is the time to "begin the conversation."

Then there's the fact that, you know, lack of vision on health care played a role in the Texas GOP's loss of standing with suburban voters.

Bottom Line: Last friday's ruling offers the Texas GOP an opportunity to make tangible progress towards health care freedom.  They should take it.  They might even discover voters like those sorts of things....

Monday, December 17, 2018

Apple "Deal" -- EVERYTHING wrong with Passive, Atrophied, Williamson County GOP

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

As we've considered this Apple "deal" over the weekend, one thought stands out: Where the heck is the Williamson County GOP?!?

We know the answer to that question.  We've discussed that question in the context of the Williamson County GOP losing the U.S. Senate race.  But, in action, it's still a sight.

Allow us to explain.

This Apple "deal" is going to be a tax increase for every Williamson County resident who is not affiliated with Apple.

The foundation of good tax policy is a broad base with low rates.  When you exempt one group from taxation, the way Williamson County intends with Apple, you have to raise tax rates on everybody else.  A narrower tax base means higher tax rates.

Tax "Abatements."  ARE TAX HIKES.  For 99%(+).  Of the community.

But, instead, the Republican majority Williamson County's commissioner's court wants to vote on this "deal" tomorrow.  Also lame-duck county judge's final meeting.  How fitting.

We're probably spitting into the wind; but, if anyone in WillCo wants to show a pulse, here's how we'd fight this Apple "deal":
  1. Flood Tomorrow's Williamson County Commissioner's Court Meeting:

    Given short notice, 7 people attending tomorrow's meeting probably counts as a "flood."  The commissioners need to see community opposition.  Put them on notice.

    NOTE: Even if they can't attend tomorrow's meeting, WillCo residents really SHOULD contact their county elected officials.

    Dan Gattis (Outgoing County Judge): (512) 943-1550
    Twitter: @DanGattis

    Bill Gravell (Incoming County Judge): (512) 943-1501
    Twitter: @BillGravell

    Cynthia Long (WillCo Commissioner, Precinct 2): (512) 260-4280
    Twitter: @CynthiaLongTX
  2. Petition Campaign:

    Any potential tax abatement "deal" with Apple really ought to be subject to voter approval.  Ideally, on the May 2019 ballot.  If May 2019 is too tall of an order, November 2019 is fine.

    Such a petition campaign would be similar to the one currently underway in Austin re: Soccer.
  3. State-Level Pushback:

    Let's not kid ourselves: None of the above is likely to happen.  "Conservative leadership" in Williamson County has been a joke for a long time.  That being said, Williamson County is not the only jurisdiction this "deal" concerns.

    This "deal" remains, primarily, a State of Texas level "deal."

    If taxpayers statewide start raising hell about this act of larceny, any non-passivity that emerges in WillCo will be a bonus.

    Remember: Nobody thought we could beat Warren Buffett a year and a half ago....
Bottom Line: Apple's market cap is comparable to the GDP of the Netherlands.  They can afford to expand their existing facility without public subsidies.  It sure would be nice if an allegedly "conservative" political party would make this argument in its own backyard....

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Texas [Insert Health Care Pun] against Obamacare!!!

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Fort Worth-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor on Friday ruled that a major provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional — and that the rest of the landmark law must fall as well.

In February, a Texas-led coalition of 20 states sued the federal government to end the health care law in its entirety, arguing that after Congress in December 2017 gutted one of its major provisions, the rest of the law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the law because its individual mandate — a financial penalty for not having insurance — could be interpreted as a tax. But after Congress set that tax at $0, the Texas coalition claimed the rest of the law no longer had “constitutional cover.”

O’Connor sided with Texas, ruling that the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional. That portion of the law, he argued, is not severable from other provisions, and so the rest of the law must fall.

Honestly, this should be a no-brainer.  Obamacare was originally upheld as a tax.  That tax is gone.  Case closed.

That being said, don't ever underestimate John Roberts' willingness to invent rationalizations for this wretched law.  That's why the "tax" argument emerged in the first place.  It will be interesting to see into what new intellectual pretzels John Roberts might twist himself.

TPPF has more:
“Today’s historic win striking down Obamacare is only the first step,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “We need to focus on the future and look to states like Texas to lead in restoring the relationship between doctor and patient, unencumbered by government and insurance company red tape. Let’s focus on solutions that will drive down costs and restore choice in doctor.”
Please, make it so.

Bottom Line: Health care freedom requires an unencumbered relationship between consumers and providers.  Yesterday's ruling was a necessary, but insufficient, step in that process.  Kudos to Paxton and TPPF!!!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Chickens of Self-Inflicted Political Wounds Come Home to Roost

"Then the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, which were on the south of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the people of Ammon."
2 Kings 23:13

[Note: You can read Cruz's full rationalization statement on his vote here.]

WASHINGTON - The Farm Bill, one of the most important pieces of federal legislation to millions of Texans, successfully made its way through both chambers of Congress this week and awaits the signature of President Donald Trump.

Formally known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, the Farm Bill is a massive spending package that will deliver $867 billion over 10 years to subsidize farming and nutrition.


It passed with widespread support in the U.S. Senate, including from the two Texans – John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – who serve in that chamber.


Cruz's support was noteworthy. As a freshman, he voted against the 2014 Farm Bill. Moreover, he frequently aligns himself with the conservative group Heritage Action which lobbied hard against the Farm Bill's passage because of the lack of more work requirements for SNAP recipients.

"I think it was unfortunate that the conference committee removed the improvements on work requirements that were in the farm bill," he told the Tribune earlier Wednesday. "I would've liked to have seen them there. I introduced an amendment on the floor of the Senate to toughen the work requirements because we should be working to get people out of the trap of dependency and back in the workforce, back on their own feet and back able to provide for their own family."

Cruz narrowly won re-election in November, largely based on strong rural turnout.
There you have it.  The Texas Farm Bureau wanted this bill.  The Texas Farm Bureau just endorsed Cruz.  In his current weakened political position, Cruz can't say no.  It's awful.  It's disgusting.  But it's reality.  Unfortunately.

Taking on the ag. lobby requires tremendous political capital.  In 2014, Ted Cruz had that kind of political capital.  He doesn't anymore.

Bottom Line:  Like it or not, the seeds of Wednesday's disappointment have been being sown for awhile....

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Abbott thinks he can Outsmart Free Market

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

For crying out loud:
Apple Inc. is planning to spend $1 billion to build a new 133-acre corporate campus in North Austin that initially will employ up to 5,000 people, cementing Austin’s status as the high-tech company’s largest hub outside of its California headquarters.

The facility — which will be less than a mile from Apple’s existing main Austin campus on Parmer Lane — eventually could expand to accommodate up to 15,000 workers, the company said. Apple employs about 6,200 people in Austin now. Counting contractors, its current Austin workforce numbers about 7,000.


Apple is in line to receive as much as $25 million in taxpayer-funded grants for the new Austin campus from the state’s deal-closing Texas Enterprise Fund, based on investment and job creation at the site. It also is seeking a 15-year property tax abatement from Williamson County, where the project is located just over the line from Travis County, that could be worth tens of millions of dollars over the life of the deal, although specific numbers weren’t available Wednesday.

Apple isn’t receiving any financial incentives from the city of Austin.

Apple — which is one of the most valuable companies in the world with a market capitalization of about $803 billion — was pledged an estimated $36 million in combined incentives from the state, the city of Austin and Travis County in 2012, when it agreed to build its existing Parmer campus.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
SERIOUSLY?!?  The $803bn figure citied in the Statesman article means Apple's market cap is comparable with the GDP of the Netherlands.  Would you give subsidies to the Netherlands?!?

By giving preferential treatment to the wealthy and well connected, Abbott will inevitably increase the burden of government on Texans.  Every penny that goes to Apple is one fewer penny to go to everything else on which the state spends money.  Don't get us started on how this deal will narrow the tax base in WillCo.  That being said, we do feel a modest point of civic pride that Austin won't be offering any incentives.

The worst part is how this corrodes our political system.  We're still skeptical that these sorts of programs encourage out-of-state liberals to move to Texas in meaningful numbers.  But it's absolutely correct that they incentivize hiring lobbyists over innovation or competition on price and service.  This is especially galling in tech, whose large players are well known for seeking subsidies for themselves while attempting to regulate their competition out of business.

Bottom Line:  Usually, socialism is when the rich steal from the middle class by using the poor as human shields.  For Greg Abbott, however, it looks like we can drop the pretense with the poor.  Yaaay Texas Republicans!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#TXLEGE: Abbott correctly prioritizes Property TAX RELIEF

"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

An early estimate shows Gov. Greg Abbott's proposal for a school finance fix would provide three times more dollars for property tax relief as it would additional money for school districts in 2020.

That gap would widen to five times more by 2021, costing the state an additional $3 billion over that time period, according to a Texas Education Agency estimate released Tuesday during a meeting of the state's school finance commission.

In raw numbers, estimates show Abbott's proposal would give taxpayers a break of $992 million in 2020, which would increase to $3.7 billion by 2023. It would provide $301 million additional funds for school districts in 2020, a figure that would drop to $74 million by 2023.

"For every three dollars spent on buying down tax relief, school districts get about a dollar of that," Nicole Conley-Johnson, chief financial officer at the Austin Independent School District, said of the governor's pitch.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
The article goes on to quote a number of educrats crying wolf about alleged shortcomings in education funding.  This despite the FACT that Texas spends over $60 BILLION annually on socialized "public" education.  The money's already there.

That being said, nothing in the preceding paragraph should preclude us from funding that system more efficiently.  Nor does it change the fact that shifting education funding from the local to the state level is the easiest, practical, way to move from property taxes to consumption taxes.  But if you can't run the system on $60 BILLION+, how much money will ever be enough?!?

TPPF says it well:
AUSTIN—Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation responded to the release of a new draft report from the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. The draft report repurposes existing school finance dollars to provide incentive for school districts to improve student outcomes.

Repurposing existing tax dollars to incent school districts to improve student outcomes is a great idea,” said Kara Belew, senior education policy advisor. “Without any new taxes, Texas school districts can repurpose funds and improve student outcomes by adopting teacher merit pay programs, which encourage our best teachers to stay in the classroom.”
[Note: "Repurpose" is bureaucrat-speak for 'spend more wisely.']

Again, $60 BILLION + ought to be sufficient.

Bottom Line: There are any number of ways Texas can more responsibly fund education.  But to get there, the educrats need to under stand that meaningful NET relief for taxpayers is non-negotiable.  Kudos to Governor Abbott for making that clear.


Note: If you want to understand what's wrong with school finance in Texas, consider the following result that popped up unprompted on Google....

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Patrick, once again, makes poorly informed media speculation look foolish

"with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,"
Ephesians 4:2

Like it or not, this is reality:

PR 18 12 11 by on Scribd

Patrick's endorsement comes on the heels of a report in an Austin lobby publication speculating he was about to run.  Of course, for anyone reasonably plugged in, neither of these developments should come as a surprise.  It's an open secret that people are trying to recruit Patrick into this race.  It's also not a secret that Patrick has been pouring cold water on those attempts for a year.  Today's announcement makes it official.

The funniest part about this development, however, is that it's the second time in as many years that Patrick has had to shoot down baseless speculation that he was going to run for another office.  In neither case was Patrick doing any work to set up such a campaign.  NEWSFLASH: Dan Patrick likes being Lieutenant Governor.

It's also worth noting that Texas' state and federal officials have been singing kumbaya since Hurricane Harvey.

As for a Cornyn challenge: Find a credible candidate.  Not that guy you like on Facebook who's lost primaries for both the Texas and U.S. house.  A credible candidate.  (Hint: Nobody credible will run this cycle because of this guy.)

Bottom Line: Today's announcement shouldn't surprise anyone who has the slightest clue....

Monday, December 10, 2018

#TXLEGE: How badly do Municipal Pensions underperform?!?

"Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, 'And what shall we do?'"

So he said to them, 'Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.' ”
Luke 3:14

Wow; via the DMN:
All but a handful of the local public pension funds in Texas have the same problem. They picked the wrong monkeys to manage their money. The result is underperformance. In many cases it means serious underfunding of workers' retirements.

That's the sorry story for most of the pension plans created to serve public employees for our cities, counties, police and fire departments. The data comes from the public pension search tool on the website for the Texas comptroller. That's where you can find a database of all the funds in Texas.

The data plainly says that the police need to police their funds more actively and the fire departments have a three-alarm pension fire to attend.

Am I indulging in cheap, journalistic hyperbole? I wish I were.

My measuring stick was a simple, utterly conventional and low-cost index fund, the Vanguard Balanced Index fund Admiral shares, a fund that invests 60 percent of its money in the total domestic stock market and 40 percent in the total domestic bond market.

That's pretty vanilla. It's also dirt cheap. The Admiral shares, which require a minimum investment of $3,000, have an annual expense ratio of 0.07 percent. That means it would cost $7 to manage $10,000 for a year. It's a fraction of what it costs for individuals and most institutions to have "active" money management.

This is the most basic, one-stop shopping form of Couch Potato investing possible. Commit the money. Forget about it.

Our pension funds, on the other hand, invest in a variety of ways, pay higher fees and make direct investments in real estate. Many also make "alternative investments," which are expensive to manage and hard to measure. What they most certainly do is provide compensation levels for their managers that few police officers or firefighters will ever see.

So, how did the 86 managers do?

I can't tell you about six of them because they don't yet have 10-year track records. But of the remaining 80 funds, a whopping 76 failed to beat the cheap and simple index fund. Four beat it, but the real number is probably lower.
Bottom Line: This is astonishing. Even if appeals to abstract notions of fiscal sustainability didn't work, one would think appeals to self-interest would. Yet here we are....

Saturday, December 8, 2018

#TXLEGE: ELIMINATE Corporate Welfare; Streamline School Finance

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

We've previously discussed the Chapter 313 program; now, TPPF has some appalling new findings:
AUSTIN— Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation published the paper “Breaking the Bank: Robin Hood and Chapter 313.”

The paper’s author Stanley Greer, a senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, released the following statement:

“Under Chapter 313, important decisions about state funding for schools are taken out of the hands of lawmakers who are accountable to state taxpayers. In fact, Chapter 313 has played a major role in transforming the funding of Texas’ K-12 public schools into an extremely complicated and counterproductive game of ‘beggar thy neighbor.’”

Despite public school officials in districts benefiting from Chapter 313 being highly in favor of the financial gains they’ve negotiated, little or no long-term educational benefit result from increased funding unaccompanied by meaningful changes in how students are instructed or how teachers are recruited and rewarded for their work.

“When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, legislators may decide whether or not the Texas Economic Development Act (Chapter 313) gets renewed,” said Cutter Gonz├ález, a policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “This paper exposes concerns about property tax abatements that show why lawmakers should keep decisions on state spending in their hands by letting Chapter 313 expire.”

Key Points:
  • Chapter 313 tax abatements incentivize school districts to provide tax abatements to every business that applies because they can pass the cost on to taxpayers across the state. 
  • Chapter 313 and Chapter 41, otherwise known as Robin Hood, jointly create a situation whereby relatively prosperous districts can raise revenues to fund their own operations more efficiently by granting tax abatements to businesses rather than by collecting taxes.
This isn't surprising.  Tax carve-outs are, essentially, central planning.  Central planning always fails.

That being said, this provides more ammunition for the potential coalition to eliminate tax exemptions as part of fixing school finance.

Bottom Line: Few things will broaden the tax base more quickly than abolishing Chapter 313....


Read the whole paper:

Friday, December 7, 2018

#atxcouncil: Frank Ward's Great Austin Holiday Adventure

"In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
Proverbs 3:6

From Frank Ward's Campaign:


  • Greg Casar - "I just don't think that we are in the business of reducing congestion."
  • Ann Kitchen - "That's not really our goal, to get rid of congestion."
  • Ward - "Reducing congestion is not really their goal, you have got to be kidding me."
  • Ward - "We have to do something about this traffic."
Bottom Line: Vote for Frank Ward if you value dissent and intellectual diversity.  Early voting runs through tonight (Friday) at 7pm.  Election Day Tuesday.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

#TXLEGE: The stupidest possible way one could attack Dennis Bonnen

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify."
1 Corinthians 10:23

Some left-wing group in the Trib:
Since President Trump was elected, the immigrant community in Texas has been living a worsening nightmare: an emboldened Republican Texas Legislature banned sanctuary cities with Senate Bill 4, the president tried to kill Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status for immigrants unable to safely return to their home countries and separated migrant children from their families in detention camps across the state. And now the latest blow, more than 30 Texas Democrats have signed on to support Rep. Dennis Bonnen as the next speaker of the Texas House.

This is a man who has filed bills to kill protections for immigrants and wants English-only laws, who is against in-state tuition for undocumented youth and LGBTQIA rights.

On November 6, 2018, the electorate sent a mandate. Texas Democrats who support Bonnen have lost sight of what the immigrant community and people of color who supported them need and want. Across Texas and the nation, voters made it clear — we are against Trump’s racist agenda and any politician who would support it. We need politicians who will not apologize for our existence, who will stand with our values.
Seriously?!?  Dennis Bonnen hasn't even been officially elected as speaker and you're already making specious accusations of racism?!?  Good luck with that.

Allow us to explain something we've learned over the years about Dennis Bonnen's personality.

Dennis Bonnen despises bad faith political attacks.  We've seen that play out against conservativesWe've also seen it play out against taxpayer-funded lobbyists.  Either way, bad-faith political attacks repel Dennis Bonnen.

From a conservative perspective, this is why we're taking a wait-and-see approch with Bonnen.  If bad behavior from the speaker's office continues, there will be an appropriate time to address it.  In the meantime, it doesn't take a genius to imagine a scenario where Dennis Bonnen loses patience with being constantly attacked as a racist.  If that highly plausible scenario materializes, AND the conservative grassroots has spent the previous weeks building a productive relationship, see the previous paragraph.

One more thing: This could be an early sign that Bonnen will split the D caucus in the same way that Straus split the R caucus.

Bottom Line:  This was an unforced error that could haunt the left....

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#TXLEGE: Are TABC/Booze Lobby in TROUBLE?!?

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8

Strike One:
The state’s largest liquor chain — Spec’s Wine, Spirits and Finer Foods — is suing the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission for “abusive regulatory overreach” over an enforcement action that dragged on for almost two years before falling apart in administrative proceedings last year, court documents show.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Houston in late August but only recently unsealed, alleges that the TABC “wrongfully and maliciously” attempted to “extort” money from Spec’s by threatening to effectively shut the company down or by making the family-owned business fork over more than $700 million in civil penalties.

The TABC, citing the pending litigation, declined to comment.

In a stinging rebuke of the TABC last year, a pair of administrative law judges said the agency failed to prove dozens of allegations and chastised the agency for failing to disclose evidence to their own witness (and the court). The judges also called out the agency for “stacking” charges, a tactic commonly used to pressure defendants into a settlement. In the end, the judges recommended no fines be assessed against the liquor chain.
Strike Two:

[Note: Keep in mind, TABC was part of the Texas Grassroots Coalition Letter on the Sunset Commission.]
Strike Three:
Eliminating 3-Tier Alcohol Distribution

The Democratic platform contains strong free-market language defending the rights of craft brewers: “Democrats support modernizing the TABC’s 3 tier system because Texas’s craft breweries create jobs, encourage tourism, grow the economy, revitalize communities and add incremental tax revenues. Democrats support legislation allowing craft breweries to enjoy the same rights as their competitors in every state that allow them to sell and market their products directly from their breweries to consumers for take-home consumption, and ensure fairness in distribution across the state.” Cheers to that. For their part, Republicans “urge the Texas Legislature to adopt legislation eliminating the mandatory three-tier system of alcohol production, distribution, and retail. Texans should have the freedom to purchase alcohol directly from manufacturers, just as any other retail product.”
Bottom Line: Next week's Sunset commission hearing could be very could the amendments/floor debates on whatever bill they pass next session.

#atxcouncil: A RIDICULOUS Distraction....

"having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed."
1 Peter 3:16

Ssssssssay what?!?

Ward Didn’t File Financial Disclosure,

a Possible Class B Misdemeanor
The article continues:
City Clerk Jannette Goodall is responsible for providing candidates with forms and instructions. To that end her office prepared a 360-page Candidate Packet (linked at the bottom of this story) for those who may run for mayor and City Council. The forms that candidates must use to file financial disclosures are provided in the packets. The packet is available in hard copy as well as a PDF.

Two disclosures are required:

The Statement of Financial Information (SFI) is required by Section 2-7-72 of the Austin City Code. The deadline for filing the SFI with the City Clerk’s Office was 4:45pm August 27, 2018.

The Personal Financial Statement (PFS) for local candidates and officials is required by Government Code Chapter 572. The Candidate Packet provides a link to a Texas Ethics Commission Instruction Guide for completing Form PFS. The deadline for filing a PFS with the City Clerk’s Office was September 10, 2018.


Ward said he thought the SFI he had filed in January satisfied all requirements and he had not understood the other reporting requirement.

“I support your mission of transparency,” he said.

In a text message November 29, Ward said, “I’m also going to find out why I wasn’t alerted to it. When I filed all my paperwork to run, I confirmed at the time that I had filed the necessary paperwork and don’t recall being told anything else was to be submitted...otherwise, I would have filed additional paperwork at that time.”
PUH-LEEZE.  This is a paperwork error.   Frank Ward is addressing it.  All other speculation is trial by innuendo.

But, why now?!?

According to Democratic sources, a poll was conducted last weekend.  It showed Frank Ward leading his opponent 44-40.  Frank Ward's message of intellectual diversity and respect for taxpayers clearly resonates.

Which means Frank Ward's opponents need to change the subject.

Voila, scandal!!!

Bottom Line: Frank Ward is the only voice of dissent.  He's the only candidate who respects taxpayers.  Frank Ward is the only candidate who supports rational solutions to housing costs and traffic.  But why would Frank Ward's opponents want to discuss property taxes, housing costs, and traffic when there are scandals to manufacture?!?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

#TXLEGE: "School Finance reform" without PROPERTY TAX RELIEF is pointless (or worse)

"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

Last week, the school finance commission held one of its final meetings:
The upcoming legislative session is more than a month away, but public school advocates are warning that a meaningful overhaul of the beleaguered school finance system is in jeopardy because of a competing priority: property tax relief.

A state commission created to suggest fixes to how the state funds public education has instead focused on reining in property taxes — including a plan by Gov. Greg Abbott — without identifying how to pay for the idea, let alone grow the overall pot of money for public schools.

Property tax and state revenue primarily fund the state’s public schools, which serve 5.4 million students.

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance, created by the Legislature last year, has for months been listening to input from district officials, state leaders and analysts. It is slated to issue recommendations by the end of the month.

Lawmakers have said they will make school finance a priority during the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 8, but public school officials and advocates fear the drive to usher in property tax relief will come at the expense of adequately funding schools.
To which TPPF replied:
“Texans desire the opportunity to finally own property one day instead of renting from the government,” said Vance Ginn, Ph.D., and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at TPPF. “By limiting government spending and using taxes collected by the state to freeze and buy down the school M&O property tax until eliminated, that part of the American dream can finally be fulfilled. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and other elected officials to provide substantial tax relief and abundant prosperity for Texans.”

To help achieve property tax relief, the Texas Public Policy Foundation previously issued a proposal that could eliminate nearly half of the property tax burden by ending the school maintenance and operations property tax. This property tax relief proposal is supported by the 18 groups of the Conservative Texas Budget Coalition.
TPPF is exactly right.  Unless you're reducing property taxes at the local level, why should the state put more money into education?!?  At that point, you're just pouring money into the status quo.  That's exactly why we opposed the house's 'school finance' effort last session.

The whole point of engaging on this issue is that the state picking up a bigger share of the tab is the easiest practical way to move from property taxes to consumption taxes.  That's why the RPT included this specific proposal in its legislative priorities.

That being said, we were intrigued by one of the educrats' comments about ending tax exemptions.  That's a discussion that is worth having.  If we can add the educrats to the coalition discussed yesterday, we could be onto something.

Bottom Line: Without tangible property tax relief, there's no reason to engage this issue.  Do the educrats want to blow up this process before it begins?!?  Or do they want to engage in a productive conversation about ending tax carve-outs?!?  Because the choice is up to them.