Friday, May 31, 2019

#TXLEGE: Bonnen's "no campaigning" edict violates Democrats' (*) First Amendment Rights

"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
Galatians 4:16

* -- Bonnen's edict violates the first amendment rights of all members, but for the purposes of this blog post we're elaborating on the Observer piece.


The Texas Observer makes a really good point:
But soon after the session adjourned, Bonnen issued a thinly veiled warning to Democrats. In an interview with Texas’ major newspapers, Bonnen said that he expects all House members to refrain from campaigning against any of their colleagues — Republican or Democrat. “If you campaign against another one of your colleagues, two things will happen to you,” Bonnen said. “I will weigh in against you, and if I’m fortunate enough to continue as speaker, you will find yourself not well positioned in the next session.”

Democrats’ 2018 gains forced Republicans to finally address the rotten fruits of their decade-plus of legislative labor. Now, the speaker is demanding that the ascendant minority party disarm itself and maintain the status quo. According to the Dallas Morning News, when asked how a Democratic member charged with orchestrating a House takeover strategy in 2020 should proceed, Bonnen replied: “Move cautiously.”
Confession: We didn't think about it until the Observer brought it up...but "move cautiously" is a quite thuggish, mafiaesque, message for an elected official from the majority party to deliver.

Facing the best political environment they've seen in awhile, and are likely to see for awhile, members of the minority party are supposed to disarm?!?

Democrats are well within their rights, and if they have any self-respect they really ought, to tell Dennis Bonnen to pound sand.

Bottom Line: Bonnen's proposed aristocracy is bad for any number of people for any number of reasons.  Among those hurt are the minority party.  They ought not comply....

Thursday, May 30, 2019

#TXLEGE: Barring a special session, Abortion Tourism is inevitably coming to Texas

"because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Romans 1:21

Louisiana last night:
Louisiana's state legislature on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a so-called "heartbeat" pro-life bill, becoming the latest in a slew of states to enact strict new restrictions on abortion that many conservatives have hoped will end with the Supreme Court revisiting its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has said he will buck the national party establishment and sign the measure into law. Another Democrat, state Sen. John Milkovich, sponsored the bill -- underscoring the deep pro-life culture in Louisiana, even among liberal politicians.

The bill, which cleared the Louisiana House by a 79-23 vote, requires an ultrasound to be conducted prior to any abortion procedure being performed. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the bill bans abortion unless, under penalty of perjury, the abortion provider declares the procedure necessary "to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
Which means Texas now has more permissive abortion laws that almost every neighboring state (except New Mexico) and the overwhelming majority of states within 500 miles.

[Note: While we're on the topic, it's worth pointing out Mexico's abortion laws are stricter than Alabama's.]

There's lots you can say.  Plenty already has been said.  We're sure more is coming.

But none of the commentary can change one new fact of life: A significant chunk of those abortions are coming to Texas.

It's a simple legal, and geographical, reality.

When that reality fully takes hold, the elected officials who allowed it will bear responsibility.  Whether this situation arose deliberately, or if it arose from ignorance, is irrelevant.  Reality will be reality.

However we got here, only one person can change that reality: Governor Greg Abbott.

Greg Abbott can call a special session.  We have the votes to pass any pro-life bill we want.  Of course, Abbott has already said he's not doing that.

Which means that, whenever abortion tourism inevitably rears its ugly head in Texas, Greg Abbott's gonna own those headlines.

Bottom Line: When you add the the legal reality to the geographical reality, the inevitable result is obvious...unless Greg Abbott wants to change that legal reality.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

#TXLEGE: Larry Taylor's quiet revolution (Version 2.1) makes it across finish line

"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

[Note: You can see our original piece "Larry Taylor's quiet revolution" piece from last session (aka. Version 1.0) here; you can see our piece from three weeks ago "Larry Taylor's quiet revolution (Version 2.0)" here.]

Over the past several days, we've been discussing the final version of the school finance bill with those we trust.  The type of unintended consequences we most feared seem...unlikely.  That being said, we stand by what we said Saturday:

[Note: A 72 hour "reading period" for the final version of any school finance bill is something we originally called for two years ago.]

Even with all that, however, for two years we've had two non-negotiable demands on any school finance bill:
  • Meaningful tax relief (aka. compression)
  • Whatever new spending does occur needs to go to the classroom, not the bureaucracy.
Given that criteria, it's hard to see the final version of the bill as anything other than a net win.

But that wasn't originally supposed to be...

...and the only reason that result emerged is because the Texas Senate, whatever their (many) other flaws this session, held firm.


Tax Stuff:

The original version of HB 3 provided miniscule tax relief.  The version of HB 3 that passed the Senate contained a meaningful amount.  The final version of HB 3 actually contains slightly more tax relief than the Senate version (through a different mechanism).

The only reason that happened is because Larry Taylor stared down Dan Huberty in that conference committee...and Dan Huberty blinked.

Period.  End of Story.

But here's where the final version of the bill is truly revolutionary: It creates a long-term mechanism for ongoing tax compression without creating an equivalent mechanism for new spending.

The practical meaning is that, in future legislative sessions, the default "do nothing" position will be further tax compression.  If the legislature wants to spend, it will now require an affirmative act.  Some sessions, they might do that, but they ain't gonna do that every session.

Over the medium to long term, the new funding formulas are going shift power from educrats to taxpayers.

And that's quietly revolutionary.


Teacher Pay Raises:

We've said our piece on this topic.  We're not really crazy about the concept.  But we've seen worse.  It's a middle of the pack idea.

Middle of the pack > bad.

Given that they legislature seemed determined to spend Billions on "education" this session...this was about the most bland, inoffensive, way they could have done it.

Furthermore, within the context of the current system, over time this shifts power from educats to teachers.

The original version of HB 3, however, was a blank check for bureaucrats.  Dan Huberty wanted to spend astronomical amounts on all school district employees, not just teachers.  Had that version passed, we would have never recovered from the perverse incentives.

Bland & inoffensive > never would have recovered.

The long-term implications from this power shift within the ISD's remains to be seen, but they could be significant.


Bottom Line: If you're a taxpayer or a teacher, you like this bill.  If you're a bureaucrat, you don't.  It'll be very interesting to see how this plays over time....

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A-LIE-ance for "Life" LIES about SCOTUS order

"They are all adulterers.
Like an oven heated by a baker—
He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough,
Until it is leavened."
Hosea 7:4

The things you see scrolling through Twitter:

Yowza...looks pretty convincing.

Until you read what SCOTUS actually said:

Page 11

Translation: The fastest way to get this case in front of SCOTUS is for the 5th circuit to produce a ruling at odds with the 7th circuit.

As for Justice Thomas:

Page 14

Translation: Justice Thomas is saying the opposite of what TAL's tweet implies.

Bottom Line: Reasonable people can disagree over the degree to which SCOTUS deserves deference, but we should at least tell the truth about what they actually say....

#TXLEGE: Not "worst session ever" (but still pretty dadgum uninspiring)

"Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord;"
Lamentations 3:40

[Note: #TXLEGEwatch has a detailed examination of the session here.]

The 86th is over.  Some say it accomplished nothing, while others claim Texas just won the Super Bowl.  Both hyperbolize.

The truth lies between (though significantly closer to the former).

To call the legislature's results on property taxes and school finance "transformational" is silly.  They are, however, meaningful progress.  Just because legislators exaggerate does not change the fact that automatic rollback elections and automatic tax compression are reforms for which some people have fought for decades.

So one (possibly one and a half) cheer for the legislature.

That being said, they didn't deliver squat on any other major issue.  On medium tier issues (eg. marijuana reform), the pickings are likewise slim.  Minor accomplishments (eg. the so-called 'Born Alive' act) are spun into 'major' victories.

It reminds us of what a former Governor of Texas once said about the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Bottom Line: White-hot rage is an overreaction, but a bright-orange sense of EXTREME irritation is entirely appropriate.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Every TAXPAYER in the state of Texas is now PAYING Art Briles

"Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life;
He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing."
Proverbs 29:24

Since they did it as a Friday Evening Holiday Evening document dump, you might not have heard:
On a Friday evening news dump just before the start of a holiday weekend, the Mt. Vernon Independent School district announced that it had hired ex-Baylor coach Art Briles to lead the Texas high school’s football team. Superintendent Jason McCullough said during a Facebook live session that the school board approved the hiring in a 7-0 vote.


This hire comes nearly three years after Baylor fired Briles after an investigation found that the school had seriously mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct and violence against players on the football team. The Pepper Hamilton firm’s investigation found that 19 football players had sexually assaulted at least 17 women during Briles’ tenure with the team. One lawsuit against the program alleged that as many as 52 rapes occurred in that same span.

The press release that Mt. Vernon used to announce the hire unsurprisingly does not mention any of this in the slightest—the closest it comes to even mildly acknowledging some past issues is when it brings up the district’s Title IX coordinator—and it spits in the face of any allegations of misconduct with a collection of tone-deaf tidbits.


The implications of this hire won’t be lost on anyone with even a minimal understanding of Baylor’s scandal. Bringing in Briles is clear proof that Mt. Vernon High School values winning football games over understanding the feelings and voices of sexual assault and rape survivors, especially those who attend that school. But it also shows that the powers behind this misogynistic decision are shriveling cowards because they tried to hide it in a Friday news dump. If the school had only taken the time it spent figuring out the best way to smuggle this news past the long weekend and instead used it to look up any number of coaches that did not oversee a program with widespread issues of sexual assault, they might not be in this mess.
This website's feelings about Art Briles are well known. They haven't changed.  There's a lot we could say, but we concur with Wescott Eberts:
Briles, for his part, also failed to publicly address the key concerns, just as he’s consistently failed at every turn to take accountability for his actions or express remorse about everything that happened. He remains completely unrepentant — apologizing for his mistakes should be the baseline, the absolute baseline, for getting a second chance anywhere in public life.
Read Wescott's whole piece here.

It's gets "better."

It's not just that Art Briles is back coaching football.  It's not even just that Art Briles is back coaching football despite having never accepted responsibility.  It that Art Briles is back coaching football despite having never accepted responsibility...and we're paying for it!!!

Say what you will about Baylor, but they are a private institution.  As such, they have a certain 'institutional autonomy' to make bad decisions.  Likewise, the Hamilton Tiger Cats (the Canadian team that tried to hire Briles in 2017).

But ISD's in Texas are public!!!  As in funded by taxpayers!!!  As in YOU!!!

Have you paid sales taxes in Texas in the past year?!?


You're now paying Art Briles.

Bottom Line: For taxpayers to foot the bill for this wretched situation is yet another condemnable detail....

Friday, May 24, 2019

Roy's move toward sanity will beget Hysteria

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

In news that shouldn't be a big story, but is:
Rep. Chip Roy became the man who delayed $19.1 billion in disaster aid to communities throughout the country on Friday.

House leaders tried to pass a multibillion-dollar disaster assistance measure, by unanimous consent, but the Texas Republican objected on the floor.

Since House and Senate lawmakers have already left town for their Memorial Day recess, the objection likely causes a 10-day holdup in delivering aid that has already been delayed for five months amid cross-party sparring. The Senate passed the measure Thursday, with President Donald Trump's blessing.

The House could still pass the bill by unanimous consent next week, if no lawmaker comes to the floor to object.
Here's the truth: The real world consequences of any of this will be minimal...and anyone who tells you otherwise is manipulating your emotions for political purposes.

Period.  End of story.

Purported federal 'disaster relief' is a farce.  It's a hodge-podge of unrelated spending shoehorned into an emotionally compelling narrative.  So-called federal 'disaster relief' hurts the communities it claims to help.

Claims to the contrary are political hysteria.

Bottom Line:  There's no crisis.  There's just an excuse for federal spending.  Kudos to Chip Roy derailing this sham....

Thursday, May 23, 2019

#TXLEGE: YOU trust these people?!?

"He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets;
Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips."
Proverbs 20:19

Obviously, the big three held their press conference this afternoon:

On the surface, this looks...kinda...ok.  The rollback rate changes are certainly good.  The tax compression falls within the range of "good enough."

But one comment from Governor Abbott lingers.  Towards the end of the press conference, he said the school finance bill would be "several hundred pages."  Do you trust a school finance bill that's "several hundred pages" released three days before sine die?!?

'Cause this website sure as...heck...doesn't.

Which is a shame.  Because there's a case that this package represents modest progress.  But each of those "several hundred pages" potentially contains toxic seeds.

Bottom Line:  The package announced this afternoon might improve upon the status quo.  It might be everything that they're claiming.  But when people with no credibility drop "several hundred page" bills three days before sine die it...warrants skepticism.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#TXLEGE: Texas house continues tradition of lawlessness

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

This speaks for itself:

Is there anything else you can say?!?

Obviously, it's corrupt.  Obviously, it's grotesque.  Obviously, it's immoral.  It's also nothing new....

A powerful special interest wanted a bill passed...and the Texas house found a way to make it happen.

Citizens be damned.

Bottom Line: The Texas house seems determined, in this final week of the session, to give a clinic in why voters worldwide are livid with their elected officials....

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

#TXLEGE: 85 state reps STIFF ARM 91% of Texans

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

We said our piece yesterday about where "leadership" is taking the house.  Then the taxpayer funded lobbying bill failed.  Empower Texans has a good write up.

Obviously, this is bad.  It's really bad for Republicans.  The coming days will have plenty of time for that fallout.

Before we get to that, however, let's pause and reflect on one fact: 91% of Texans (ie. not just Republicans) oppose taxpayer funded lobbying.

Taxpayer-funded lobbying is hated (*).  It's wildly unpopular.  Yet, 85 state reps (in both parties) chose to continue the practice.

Newt Gingrich used to discuss "85% issues."  Gingrich's idea was to promote a few simple, but overwhelmingly popular, reforms to empower citizens over political insiders.  While Gingrich proposed this federally, the state level parallels are obvious.

Instead, faced with a 91% issue, 85 individual Texas state representatives chose to political insiders.  It's quite something.  Yaaay bi-partisanship!!!

Bottom Line: If you want to understand why voters worldwide are livid with their elected officials, yesterday's vote on SB 29 would be a good place to start.


* -- People who don't share this author's philosophical disposition have privately told us the most horrifying stories (we're sorry your boss didn't listen).

Monday, May 20, 2019

#TXLEGE: house "leadership" makes its bed (now they lie in it)

"That they may successfully do evil with both hands—
The prince asks for gifts,
The judge seeks a bribe,
And the great man utters his evil desire;
So they scheme together."
Micah 7:3

We're currently sitting in the house gallery for the "debate" on the taxpayer-funded lobbying bill.  They're currently discussing some point of order about something.  We have no idea how the point of order will be resolved.  At this point, we honestly don't care.

This bill might pass.  It might not.  Either way, the bill has been so badly gutted that the real world impact of its passage will be miniscule.

But house 'leadership,' led by Dennis Bonnen, made their decision over the weekend.

Last Friday, we wrote:
If those bills get done, we've had an ok session.

If those bills don't get done, it'll get really ugly.

Just look at what's happening with the Tories in the U.K.
It's now Monday, and none of those bills are getting done.

The ugliness is going to commence shortly.  We have no idea what form it will take.  But the Tories in the U.K. are a good guess.

Bottom Line: The next few years are going to be fascinating to watch....

Saturday, May 18, 2019

#atxcouncil: Lying, Phony-Ass, Schmuck Welcomes Raging anti-Semite to Town

"Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people."
Proverbs 28:15

Anyone who knows this author knows how much we loathe national politics, but some things can't go unchallenged:


This website's beef with Steve Adler has always been, primarily, about his wretched performance as Mayor.

In Year Five of Steve Adler, Austin is:
In terms of substance, and public policy, Steve Adler is an awful Mayor.

But to be the "GoH" at an event keynoted by Ilhan frickin' Omar takes Steve Adler's phoniness to another level.

Steve Adler:

Ilhan Omar:

We could go on, but you understand.

That's not to say Steve Adler agrees with Ilhan Omar.  Steve Adler is all about Steve Adler.  He's a crony capitalist who works with the rationalization du jour.

Socially liberal grandstanding as misdirection from the more boring forms of municipal larceny has been Steve Adler's playbook for a long time.

Unfortunately, there's a difference between socially liberal grandstanding, and parading around with anti-Semites.

Steve Adler, like it or not, has crossed that line.

Any politician who crosses that line, while yammering about alleged "hate speech," is the phoniest of phonies.

Bottom Line:  Steve Adler can condemn hate.  Or he can stop attending events with those who purvey it.  He can't do both....

Friday, May 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: house leadership has a decision to make this weekend

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

UPDATE: After writing the original blog post, but before we hit 'publish,' we received the following bill alert.

In case you haven't heard:
Republican Party of Texas priority legislation to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying received a potentially fatal blow in the Texas House on Friday morning.

Senate Bill 29 by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), which would bar the practice of governments from using taxpayer dollars to higher lobbyists who often work against taxpayers in the Texas Capitol, was passed by the State Senate last month. At the same time, legislation filed in the House by State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) languished in the Calendars Committee, never being scheduled for a vote.

Conservatives had renewed hope for the bill, however, when the Senate’s version of the bill was scheduled for a vote in the House on Friday.

But shortly after the body gaveled in on Friday morning, State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) made a motion to take the bill off the calendar and send it back to the State Affairs Committee, which he chairs, reportedly in order to fix errors that could have enabled opponents to kill the bill on procedural grounds.
Obvious FACT #1: This isn't good.

Obvious FACT #2: This is happening alongside the...whatever...that's going on with the election bills.

Obvious FACT #3: We haven't heard anything about property taxes or employment law preemption in awhile.

All of these items passed the Senate.

None of them have passed the house.

So far.

Which brings us to the decision house leadership must make over the weekend: Do these bills get across the finish line?!?

Because those bills, even in their current form, represent tangible progress on those issues.

If those bills pass, even in their current form, we can declare victory and go home.  Yes, these issues will be back next session.  But those bills, even in their current form, aren't a bad start.

If.  They.  Pass.

Unfortunately, there's nothing anyone outside the chamber can do.

It's up to Dennis Bonnen.  And it's up to the committee chairs Dennis Bonnen appointed.  And it's up to the committee members Dennis Bonnen appointed.

If those bills get done, we've had an ok session.

If those bills don't get done, it'll get really ugly.

Just look at what's happening with the Tories in the U.K.

Bottom Line: We have no idea what's going to happen.  But the decisions made this weekend will have long-lasting consequences.  Pray.  And choose wisely....

Thursday, May 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Alliance for...enabling bureaucrats over patients?!?

"They are all adulterers.
Like an oven heated by a baker—
He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough,
Until it is leavened."
Hosea 7:4

Over the past week, we've seen movement to reform the diabolical Texas "Advance Directives" Act.  Mind you, this is reform, not repeal.  The bill in question leaves the wicked system in place.  It merely establishes a more workable system of 'due process' for those already trapped.

Furthermore, the horrifying Carolyn Jones case happens in the background.

Yet, even this modest concession is too much for some:

Obviously, that letter has a lot to unpack, but to yammer about "imminent and certain death" at a time when a Beaumont woman is heroically disproving their argument tells you what you need to know.

Something else in that letter speaks louder:


For those of you unfamiliar with the history, the so-called Texas "Medical" Association has been one of the...more zealous advocacy groups for abortion in this state.

Yet an allegedly pro-life group treats them like BFF's.

At least the so-called Texas "Medical" Association has a certain 'logic.'  They're a trade group.  As such, their objective is to preserve their own pricing power.  Given this objective, it doesn't take a genius to see why they support bureaucrats over patients.

Their logic might be diabolical.  Their logic might be wicked.  But their logic IS logical.

We can't say the same for any self-respecting "pro-life" organization.

Obviously, end of life decisions are difficult.  But that's why those decisions should be made by patients and families.  Not bureaucrats backed by the force of an obscure state law.

Which, of course, is obvious to anyone who calls themselves pro-life and has a shred of integrity or self-respect.

Unfortunately, not everyone in this state who markets themselves as "pro-life" has those traits.

Bottom Line: The correct pro-life position in this case is obvious to anyone who isn't willfully blind or hopelessly compromised....

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

#TXLEGE: Dan Patrick and Jane Nelson need to KILL this TAX HIKE (that already passed the frickin' house)

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

Sssssssssssssssssssay what, via. Forbes:
Though the sales tax hike appears dead, Texas taxpayers are not in the clear for the year. In the same week that the sales tax hike was tabled, another tax hike, one targeted at travel agents, passed the House and now heads to the Senate for further consideration next week.

That proposed tax hike, HB 3579, would affect all travel booking fees, inflating costs for Texans and out-of-state visitors when they use either in-person, or online travel booking services. Hotel occupancy taxes are already collected on the room price agents arrange with hotels. HB 3579 would extend hotel occupancy taxes beyond the room rate and apply the tax to the fee paid to travel agents.

It may strike some as odd that lawmakers would pursue policies that make their state a more expensive place to visit, but that’s what enactment of HB 3579 would do. HB 3579, which was approved by the House this week and now heads to the Senate, is a tax increase that will adversely affect anyone who books a hotel stay through a traditional travel agent or an Online Travel Agent (OTA), such as Orbitz, Travelocity, and Hotwire. Next week’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on HB 3579 will be instructive as to whether Texas senators intend to slap a new tax on people who book hotels and other lodging accommodations online, despite this being a time when state coffers are flush.
A source e-mails:
[T]his is also a case of massive cronyism. It uses higher taxes as a cudgel to push travelers and tourists to the likes of in order to keep fees down— in other words, it’s a total cronyist giveaway to Big Hotel (it also disadvantages smaller, independent hotels, which may be more dependent than on the likes of Orbitz for bookings). It is also straight up extending a HOTEL LODGING tax to services— kind of like if Texas decided to apply a cigarette tax rate to gas pumped at your local Exxon station.
For those wondering, this was the vote in the house:

Note: Page 3348 in the Journal
Obviously, this is a wretched bill for all of the reasons discussed above.

The good news, however, is that the Senate can kill it by...doing nothing.

If Jane Nelson refuses to vote the bill out of committee...the bill dies.

If Dan Patrick refuses to bring the bill up for floor consideration...the bill dies.

Bottom Line: This bill should never have gotten this far.  That being said, the Senate still has the opportunity to do what should have originally been done.  Hopefully, they do.  If not, woe unto all of us....


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: (512) 463-0001

Chairwoman Jane Nelson: (512) 463-0112

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: 10 cents of compression + Voter Control WITH TEETH = Good Enough (for now)

"Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished,
But he who gathers by labor will increase."
Proverbs 13:11

[Note on terminology: Without getting into a long, boring, discussion of the technical aspects of the property tax system, every "cent of compression" on school taxes equals approximately a 1% cut.

=> "10 cents of compression" = approximately a 10% cut on school taxes.

[Note II: We said approximately.  Your personal situation may vary based on any number of factors.  Cahnman's Musings is a political website, NOT a financial planning service.]

As we've been making the rounds in recent days, a consensus is beginning to emerge: If the 10-cent rate compression in the Senate version of the school finance bill survives the conference committee, AND a strong version of the voter control bill survives...then it probably makes sense to declare victory and go home.

At that point, you'd have a 7ish% outright cut to property tax bills.  You'd have the automatic election triggers to constrain future growth.  It's far from everything we'd like, but it's undeniably better than the status quo.  There's nothing stopping us from doing another 10-cent compression (or more) next session.

It's also achievable.  If there's political will.  Which brings us to the house.

We spoke yesterday to a source with close ties to house leadership.  According to this source, Speaker Bonnen has called the numbers underpinning the Senate bill "complete bullshit."  Bonnen has also called the Senate bill "a garbage bill" whose numbers don't add up.

We ran Bonnen's concerns by other sources who study these things in detail.  They said, even if Bonnen technically has a point about the details of the school finance, there's more than enough money in the budget to plug any shortfall.  Thus, Bonnen's only saying what he's saying to protect the spending in the budget.

Your guess is as good as ours as to how it plays out between now and sine die.

Bottom Line: It's an achievable objective.  They have enough money.  The next few weeks will be a very interesting statement of priorities....

Monday, May 13, 2019

#TXLEGE: School District Electioneering Ban Still Moving

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

We were looking for something else in today's posting for the house elections committee, when we noticed the following bill was up:
SB 1569        Fallon                  
Relating to the use of public money and resources by employees of an independent school district to distribute a communication that advocates for or opposes a political measure, candidate, or party; creating a criminal offense.

This bill is in direct response to the shenanigans the educrats pulled during the last election cycle.

It's very welcome.

As a principle, it's (kinda) similar to taxpayer funded lobbying.  At their core, both taxpayer funded lobbying and electioneering by school districts involve taxing all citizens to subsidize one set of political views.  It's compelled speech.

Public subsidies for certain forms of political speech are one of the bigger problems this state faces.  Moving forward, one conclusion we've reached from this session is that they need to be address more systemically.  We fully intended to include school district electioneering in that discussion.  But, if the legislature wants to knock out that one form of subsidy right now, so much the better.

Bottom Line: To be honest, we thought this bill had died weeks ago.  We never thought they'd find the votes to get it out of the Senate.  But, if they could votes in that chamber, maybe they can find them in the house....

Saturday, May 11, 2019

#TXLEGE: Income Tax election is a GIFT to county GOP's (if they take it)

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

We said our piece about the house's income tax prohibition amendment last fall:  There is a loophole in the Texas constitution the legislature should close.  The Democrats success in last year's election raised the level of urgency for closing said loophole.  Furthermore, from a political perspective, this is a vote you want to make the Democrats take.

Thus, good deal to the house's vote on Thursday; the Senate needs to follow suit.

But there's a funny thing about the Texas constitution: Voters have to ratify amendments.

Thus, if they were smart enough to take it, GOP county party organizations would have to opportunity to practice:

  • Identifying Supporters
    • Hint #1: This is the easiest possible issue on which to draw people in.
    • Hint #2: Data.
    • Hint #3: Once you've drawn them in on prohibiting a state income tax, they might be willing to listen to you on more difficult issues.
    • Hint #4: If you use your shared opposition to a state income tax as the basis to begin a relationship in 2019, they might be willing to listen to you about the presidency in 2020.
  • Disseminating a message/Engaging the community
    • Hint: It's impossible to know what this means in individual communities, but it's likely to include some combination of local media and informal social networks.
  • Forcing Local Democrats to take a position
    • Hint: Most Democrat elected officials secretly support a state income tax.  Most Democrat voters DON'T.  Thus, Democrat elected officials should be forced to take a public position.
Such an effort could yield tremendous dividends in (at least) the following counties: Travis, WillCo, Hays, Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Harris, Ft. Bend, Webb, Starr, Hidalgo, El Paso.

Some of those are areas that have historically been GOP strengths, but have recently softened.  Some of those have historically leaned GOP, but recently become swing territory.  Even in the deeper blue areas, however, there are intra-D tensions a more nimble GOP could exploit.

You will never have a friendlier issue on which to mount such an effort than opposition to a state income tax.

Bottom Line: The opportunity is there, but it's an open question whether or not anyone will take advantage....

Friday, May 10, 2019

#TXLEGE: Capriglione's Protectionist Roofing Scheme FAILS SPECTACULARLY

"Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
But counselors of peace have joy."
Proverbs 12:20

[Note: You can view the full discussion of HB 2101 here.  The relevant section begins at the 3 hour, 12 minute mark.  It runs for about half an hour.]

For a bill deadline day, yesterday was fairly anticlimactic.  The Texas house passed a modestly useful constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax.  Otherwise, the day went how we expected.

Except, however, for one bill that failed,

HB 2101, by Giovanni Capriglione, would require mandatory registration and fees for all roofing contractors in the state.  We're actually on the mailing list for the lobbyists who were pushing this bill.  That's the only we're familiar with it.

As luck would have it, we were in the house gallery as the bill was discussed last night.

We chronicled it, real time, on Facebook:

And Twitter:

For such a wretched bill, opposition was refreshingly bipartisan.

Democrats like Ramon Romero and Abel Herrero talked about how Capriglione's bill was unfair to responsible businesses.  Steve Toth discussed how costs exploded in his industry (swimming pool services) following a similar bill by the legislature.  Matt Schaefer spoke movingly about how such regulations would have made his own economic rise impossible.

The bill failed 33 to 99.

Bottom Line: To see such a wretched elected official pushing such a wretched bill suffer this level of public humiliation was quite fun....

Thursday, May 9, 2019

#TXLEGE: Larry Taylor's Quiet Revolution; Version 2.0

"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

[Note: You can read our original piece "Larry Taylor's quiet revolution" from last session here.]

He did it again!!!

Last session, the house passed a terrible 'school finance' bill, which the Senate altered in ways that would have produced some pretty cool long-term outcomes.

This session, to this point, it looked like the only difference was that the house wanted to spend six times as much.

Then something interesting happened in the Senate:
The Texas Senate approved a bill Monday to massively overhaul public school finance, but it did so while backing away from a proposal to use an increased sales tax to lower school district property taxes.


The bill no longer includes an expansion in the homestead exemption from school district taxes. It lowers property tax rates by 10 cents per $100 valuation, instead of 15 cents, saving the owner of a $250,000 home $250 instead of $375.


Instead, the bill creates a Tax Reduction and Excellence in Education Fund to fund school district tax relief. State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said a working group came up with a plan to get $3 billion from several sources, including the severance tax on oil and gas extraction and an online sales tax.

"This does not increase any taxes of any kind,” he said.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
There's a lot to like in this approach.


10-cent Rate Compression:

This is real, meaningful, tangible tax relief.

It's not everything we want.  It's not everything we need.  But it's a start.

And it's an offer that should be accepted while its on the table.

We can do another 10 cents next session.


Severance Tax:

The Senate might have set out to solve school finance...but they may have just, unintentionally, solved the Rainy Day Fund.

In Texas, the "Rainy Day Fund" (formally called the economic stabilization fund), is funded through Oil and Gas severance taxes.  When the energy industry does well (*), it begets windfall levels of revenue for state government.  Windfall revenues inevitably creates temptation to spend.

It's why, during every session in recent memory, there's been serious pressure to raid the rainy day fund.

A politician who is tempted to spend...will eventually spend.

It's human nature.

By dedicating severance taxes to property tax buydowns, you change the entire incentive structure surrounding the rainy day fund.

Once again, this is an offer that should be accepted while it's on the table.

* -- Which, as long as the fracking boom is allowed to continue, means essentially forever moving forward.


Bottom Line: A 10-cent rate compression alongside macroeconomic reforms to the severance tax is a pretty dadgum good place to start....

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#TXLEGE: Taxpayer Funded Lobbying Ban Suddenly FLYING through the House

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

We get bill alerts for SB 29, so imagine this as six separate e-mails:

Obviously, a committee substitute is suspect, but we read it and the important parts of the bill remain intact.

Equally obvious, nothing counts until its across the finish line.

Nevertheless, this bill is in a strong position to make it to the House floor next week.

At a minimum, this ain't how they act when they're trying to slow walk a bill to death.

Bottom Line: It's got a legit shot....

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

#TXLEGE: Stepping Back from the Budget Brink

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

While we are where we are in the session, TPPF offers an escape:

On a related note, new Polling Data:

Bottom Line: The escape hatch exists. Whether or not it's used is up to the legislature. We'll know in three weeks.

Monday, May 6, 2019

#TXLEGE: On Rule 44....

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

JoAnn Fleming over the weekend:
Friends, this is the saddest excuse for a legislative session we’ve seen in ten years. Republicans are in charge but are poised to grow state government and unleash more tentacles of the federal government into our state.
Unless some miracle happens, the end of the session will come and go on May 27, and most – if not all – of the campaign promises made to us will remain unfulfilled.  The worst part – most of the conservative legislators aren’t even fighting for the things they said they believed in.
As for the state House members who still cling to the notion that this is a “new day,” you can ride that falling tree to the ground if you want to, but we won’t.  At some point, you must admit to yourselves there is a possibility that at the end of session in 25 days, you will be standing there with NOTHING. 
Friends, you can be SURE that we will continue to push for REAL property tax relief, election integrity, saving historical monuments, and other liberty priorities until the last day of the regular session and on to a Special Session, but we have a question for you NOW…
Are YOU ready to send a strong message to the “Support Us ‘Cause at Least We Ain’t Democrats” Republicans and their consultants? 
Not sure what the accountability tool “Censure Rule 44” is all about? Read it here.
Trust me, GOP legislators know what Rule 44 means.  Do you have what it takes to make sure your local GOP Executive Committee uses it?
In addition, a website that's close with the GOP establishment recently published a satirical essay about Rule 44.  Given that the essay wasn't intended to be serious, we won't treat it as such.  Nevertheless, it's an example of how the discussion is out there.

That being said, if we're stuck going down that path, NOBODY will deserve censure more than Greg Abbott.

Consider two tools in the Governor's toolbox:

  • Vetoes -- The Governor can veto any bill he wants; therefore, any bad legislation that makes it into law is on the Governor.

    Off the top of our head, unless they change dramatically in the coming weeks, the budget, the school finance bill, and this so-called 'mental health' garbage all deserve a veto.

    If those three monstrosities make it into law, Abbott will richly deserve censure.
  • Special Sessions -- In the event grassroots priorities (especially, but not limited to, official RPT priorities) remain unpassed in three weeks, Greg Abbott can call a special session to pass them.

    In the event the afore mentioned priorities fail to pass in a special session, Greg Abbott can call another special session.

    You get the picture.
In the event that we're in a serious discussion of Rule 44, it will only be because Greg Abbott has failed to exercise his veto and special session power.

That would be obvious grounds for censure.

Bottom Line: This is far from a done deal.. but it doesn't take a genius to see the direction in which current trends are headed.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Cornyn's poll ##'s suck

"The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools."
Proverbs 3:35



  • That 16% for "someone else" are the people who would typically vote Republican, but won't vote for Cornyn.
  • For a three term incumbent to be at 44% "Unsure" suggests...a lot of room to fall.
But, hey, at least John Cornyn wants to protect us from the scourge of C-list actors with potty mouths.

Bottom Line There really ought to be a conversation about John Cornyn's general election viability before it's too late....

Friday, May 3, 2019

#TXLEGE: Either they think we're stupid. Or they actually ARE stupid. Neither is good.

"The wise in heart will receive commands,
But a prating fool will fall."
Proverbs 10:8

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!?
The top leaders at the Texas Capitol reaffirmed Friday that they were determined not just to constrain property tax growth going forward, but actually to cut property tax bills.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, said they supported allowing voters to decide whether to increase the state’s sales tax by one percentage point to buy down property tax rates.

“If we’re able to pass a sales tax increase that will be dedicated to driving down property taxes, (property) taxes are going to be less next year than they were this year,” Abbott said at a press conference.

Democrats, who could play a spoiler role, reiterated their opposition to the move, which they say would not be a good deal for poor or middle income Texans.

The House could vote on House Joint Resolution 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, which would increase the state sales tax pending approval by voters, sometime next week. The measure also presumably is linked to key property tax relief provisions in the latest version of House Bill 3, another legislative priority that would direct more money to schools and updates school funding formulas.

HJR 3 would need the approval of two thirds of each chamber. In the Senate, two Democrats would have to join all 19 Republicans. Two Republicans — Sens. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and Bob Hall, R-Edgewood — have expressed opposition to a tax increase. Bettencourt said he would prefer to raise revenue in other ways and has said tax swaps don’t work.

In the House, 17 Democrats would have to vote with all [83] Republicans for passage.

With the House Ways and Means Committee modifying the measure to no longer dedicate some of the increased sales tax money to schools — now, as written, every dollar goes to the property tax buydown — Democratic votes could be harder to come by.

House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, told the American-Statesman that there are “at least” 60 no votes among Democrats. They won’t vote to increase the sales tax, he said, because it’s among “the most regressive taxes.”
This has both public policy AND political disaster written all over it.


Public Policy Disaster:

The biggest policy problem with this proposal is that Texas' current statewide leadership has zero credibility.

In that environment, we have no reason to believe that we won't end up with both a higher sales tax AND the property tax status quo.

Make no mistake: Moving, over the long run, from property to consumption taxes is still a good idea.  The legislature entered this session with plenty of money for a significant down payment.  They had a plan they could adopt.

Instead, lawmakers chose to spend astronomical amounts of money on...basically nothing.

This sales tax hike is a belated CYA attempt...and, as such, it should be rejected.

Furthermore, when it comes to the sales tax, you can also eliminate exemptions.  There was potential consensus on this idea early in the session.  The problem, of course, is that each of those exemptions has a lobbyist/trade group defending them.  Thus, eliminating sales tax exemptions "is too hard."

So we get this hot mess of a proposal.

We're reminded of late 90's Chris Rock:

Can you come up with a better comparison?!?


Political Disaster:

That Chris Turner quote speaks for itself.

The TV commercials/online videos, likewise, write themselves.

Do Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and Dennis Bonnen really want to be the face of this debacle?!?


Bottom Line: D-E-B-A-C-L-E