Saturday, June 29, 2019

#TXLEGE: Did Geren just BLUNDER us into ANOTHER Redistricting Lawsuit?!?

"Wine is a mocker,
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise."
Proverbs 20:1

H.B. 4181 was an anti-open government bill that passed this session.  It carves the legislature out of the Texas Public Information Act.  Sounds bad enough on its own...right?!?

But wait, there's more!!!

From Lauren McGaughy:
AUSTIN — Texas has passed a new law that lets lawmakers conceal their emails and other communications from public scrutiny, as they prepare to redraw the state’s voting maps.


In a statement to The News, [Bill Author Charlie] Geren said the new law codifies existing practice and protects lawmakers from overreach and outside pressure.

“Legislative privilege ‘serves important public purposes’ and ensures that members and their staffs are protected from substantial intrusions by the executive and judicial branch seeking to second guess the Legislature’s motives,” Geren said, citing a recent Texas Supreme Court case.

He then specifically mentioned the last round of redistricting in 2011. After a legal challenge, state lawmakers and legislative employees were ordered to release damning emails that helped advocates prove the state’s voting maps were racially gerrymandered.

Geren’s Fort Worth district was adjacent to one that the courts eventually ordered to be redrawn.

“They reached this conclusion in part because they said the privileges were not explicitly and completely spelled out in the Legislative Council statute,” Geren said, referring to the Legislature’s nonpartisan research agency. “House Bill 4181 codifies the common law of legislative privilege, developed from the Speech and Debate Clause of the Texas Constitution, as traditionally understood by the Legislature and the Texas courts.”

We're not sure what's worse: That Geren perceives the issue this way...or that he said so out loud to the Dallas Morning News.

Rather than addressing the incompetence that produced the last round of lawsuits, Charlie Geren's genius idea is to deny citizens access to information.

Speaking of geniuses, it doesn't take one to see how this plays out: Having been given another chance to sue their way into a favorable redistricting map...that's exactly what the Democrats will do.

If the file that lawsuit in front of the wrong judge...who knows?!?

Bottom Line: Texas is going to rue this bill for the next decade.

Friday, June 28, 2019

#TXLEGE: Apparently, the State of Texas has NO STANDARDS FOR SWAT TEAMS

Note: This photo came from the Odessa PD's website;
that frickin' Odesssa has a 30 man SWAT team perfectly illustrates the problem

"Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God."
Matthew 5:9

[Note on Bible verse: Jesus says peacemakers...not wreckless, macho, jackwagons.]

From TPPF:
SWAT teams are sometimes a necessity, and because of the nature of the incidents they are properly used for, team formation, training, and use should be required to meet a minimum standard throughout Texas.

Key Points:

  • SWAT is a necessity for the highest risk, mostly pre-planned incidents where patrol officers are not equipped to respond. 

  • The lack of state standards for training and capabilities should be addressed.

  • If parameters can be established for police officers who perform policing functions that can vary drastically in different parts of the state, then basic definitions, requirements, and parameters can also be established for SWAT teams whose specialty is far more focused and narrow than the broader policing effort. 

  • Best practices have been established by the National Tactical Officers Association and should be used to guide the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in establishing state-level minimum standards.
From a fiscal perspective, imagine how much all this costs.

You can find a link to download a PDF of the full report here.

Bottom Line: We don't discuss criminal justice issues often, but this is madness....

Thursday, June 27, 2019

#TXLEGE: SCOTUS ruling means only be 5 or 6 redistricting lawsuits after 2020 (not 15 or 20)

"Do not remove the ancient landmark
Which your fathers have set."
Proverbs 22:28

Reasonably decent news:
The Supreme Court’s conservatives decided Thursday that federal courts do not have a role to play in deciding whether partisan gerrymandering goes too far.

The 5-to-4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was joined by the court’s other conservatives.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
All things considered, this is probably a good thing.

Obviously, the Democrats will file their usual lawsuits claiming the map is "racist."  But, had SCOTUS ruled differently, Democrats would have had grounds to sue in every close district.  That would have been a nightmare from which we would have never emerged.

Bottom Line: The status quo might not be great, but it's a heckuva lot better than would could have happened today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

#TXLEGE: Straus Launches New Crony Capitalist Endeavor

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

From the inbox:
I want to let you know about a new political committee I am launching: Texas Forever Forward.
This committee will enable me to continue advocating a thoughtful, responsible approach to governing, as well as priorities that will create a better future for our state.
Texas Forever Forward will be guided by the following principles:
  • Public education is our greatest economic development tool, and it’s critical to make meaningful, sustainable investments in Texas students.
  • A diverse, outstanding system of higher education offers every Texan a path to a brighter future and fuels economic growth across the state.
  • In order to remain a pro-business state that attracts economic activity and talented workers, Texas should embrace diversity and promote inclusive, non-discriminatory policies and laws.
  • Strategic investments in our infrastructure – in a modern transportation system and a reliable water supply – provide the foundation that a fast-growing state requires.
  • Effective treatment of behavioral health challenges will vastly improve millions of Texans’ quality of life.
  • Government should be transparent and accountable in its stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
  • Greater participation in our democracy will strengthen our discourse and lead to better policy outcomes.
I hope you will follow this effort at and on social media, and I will continue to communicate with you as it takes shape. As always, I also want to hear about the priorities that are of most interest to you and your family. 
Thank you for helping advance a brighter future for Texas. 
Speaking practically, this shouldn't have much impact.  The pro-status quo crowd already has plenty of PAC's.  One additional PAC won't make much difference either way.

Beyond that, however, it's easy to speculate about motives, but impossible to know anything with certainty.

Several hypothesises are floating:
  • Straus wants to cash in on leftover campaign funds.
    • Note: Technically, it's illegal for Straus to pay himself directly...but there's nothing to stop him from hiring his wife.
  • Gordon Johnson wants to cash in on Straus' leftover campaign funds.
  • Murphy-Nasica wants to cash in on Straus' leftover campaign funds.
  • Other ex-Straus staffers/campaign consultants want to cash in on Straus' leftover campaign funds.
  • Straus wants to run for Governor in '22.
  • Straus intends to help friends and allies.
It's impossible to know which of these hypothesises are correct.

Regardless, it doesn't matter.

Whatever Joe Straus' ultimate motivation, the money will support the status quo.

Bottom Line: Regardless of who, specifically, is getting paid...only a fool would think $10 million in leftover campaign funds was going to sit untouched indefinitely.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

#TXLEGE, #atxcouncil: Abbott makes EMPTY THREAT re: New Homelessness Ordinance

"A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back."
Proverbs 29:11

We've yet to discuss the city's new homelessness ordinance, but SOMEONE decided he wanted to mouth off about it on Twitter:

Is this a joke?!?

We just went through a legislative session.  The state just failed to override the city's (much more dangerous) "sick leave" entitlement.  Yet we're supposed to believe the state is suddenly going to grow a pair.


We explained on Twitter:

Steve Adler and Greg Casar are laughing at Greg Abbott right now.

Bottom Line: Only a fool would trust the Texas Legislature to override the homelessness ordinance any more than they overrode the (far more dangerous) "sick leave" entitlement....

Monday, June 24, 2019

#TXLEGE: System Chews Up and Spits Out Last Honest Man

"If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them."
Ecclesiastes 5:8

Well this sucks:
What a ride we’ve had together!

Friends, I find it very hard to put into words what an incredible honor it has been to represent you as your State Representative for four terms. Your love and support have carried us as we fought for our Christian, conservative values in Austin.

Eight years was enough for George Washington, and it certainly is for me. After much prayerful consideration and reflection, I have determined it is not the Lord’s will for me to seek reelection. Instead, I intend to dedicate more time to my family, my church, and my business.
Honestly, it's not surprising; it's been obvious since (at least) March that Jonathan was burnt out.

Therein lies cruelest joke.  Even if you get someone elected (as hard as that is), even if they manage to withstand the system's bad incentives (both the obvious temptations and the subtler, more insidious, compromises), it's still not enough.  To get elected, fight the system on this level while in office, and keep your seat is prohibitively personally draining.

Bottom Line:   Considering the insane amounts of pressure he's been under for five years, it's amazing Jonathan held on as long as he did.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

#TXLEGE, #atxcouncil: SB 2 already producing positive unintended consequences

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

We'll take this:
The 3.5% election trigger, known as the “rollback rate,” is a significant decrease from the 8% rate Texas cities such as Austin have operated on for years. Between the new cap and another bill that will limit the city’s ability to collect franchise fees on telecommunication companies, Ed Van Eenoo, Austin’s deputy chief financial officer, predicts a general fund budget shortfall of $18.5 million in 2021 and $58.2 million by 2024.

Preparing for budget austerity in the coming years, City Council has started discussing ways to free up tax dollars, and a growing majority support examining the possibility of backing out of the city’s active tax break deals with corporations that cost millions of tax dollars each year in exchange for investments into the local economy.

“We definitely need to look at them to see if there is any cost savings, especially before we consider cutting programs that help our most vulnerable population,” Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said. “I think corporate incentives should be the very first thing we look at.”

Garza and Council Members Jimmy Flannigan, Greg Casar, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter have all said they support, in some way, taking a look at potentially backing out of the deals.
FANTASTIC, so called "economic development deals raise taxes on average citizens to fund special favors for the politically connected.

Bottom Line: The city should never have entered into these agreements in the first place; if they're a casualty of SB 2, so much the better....

Friday, June 21, 2019

#TXLEGE: HD 135 candidates a TEXTBOOK example of why the Texas GOP is losing

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

HD-135 is a historically Republican district in Northwest Harris County that (barely) flipped blue in 2018.

The Texan has a write up of the candidates currently running for the Republican nomination.


Meet Justin Ray:
Republican candidate Justin Ray, was elected to the Jersey Village City Council in 2012, and in 2015 was elected as the youngest Mayor in city history. A life-long resident of Jersey Village, the only city in the district, Ray says he’s watched the area evolve from “suburban to urban-suburban.”

When asked by The Texan what he thought was needed for the GOP to reclaim HD 135, Ray emphasized appropriate messaging and hard work.

“We must articulate a Republican message that resonates with our 2020 voters, including younger voters and suburban moms.” Ray added that a priority issue for his campaign would be support for public education, which he says is the number one issue for families in his district. “I am uniquely situated to understand what voters and families in the area want.”


Ray has been cultivating support from other elected officials in the area, and the host committee for a recent Justin Ray fundraiser included trustees from both Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and the Harris County Board of Education, as well as Jersey Village city council members and the city’s current mayor.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Justin Ray is a standard educrat candidate.  He'll be a mouthpiece for the Cy-Fair ISD bureaucracy.  His campaign website is short on specifics beyond throwing money at public education.

Fun facts about Cy-Fair ISD:
  • Superintendent Salary -- "Superintendent John Henry of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District took home the largest paycheck in Texas with his base salary of $406,484, according to 2017-2018 salary data from the Texas Education Agency.
  • Debt Outstanding per student -- $21,062.
  • Debt approved, not yet issued -- $1,762,000,000. [Note: That's almost another $2 BILLION]
Cy-Fair ISD is about to have $4 Billion in debt outstanding...and Justin Ray is running to be their man in Austin.

As for the so-called "Harris County Board of Education": It's a superfluous layer of government that should have been abolished decades ago.

Even with all that, however, Justin Ray might still be the less bad candidate in this race.


Young Conservatives of Texas Denounce Mark McCaig

Austin, TX—Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) today denounced the activities of former YCT member Mark McCaig and demanded that he stop using the organization’s name to attack conservative candidates. McCaig, who recently joined the personal injury law firm of ultra-liberal Democrat super funder Steve Mostyn, has launched a deceptively named–PAC called Conservative Voters of Texas and is using the PAC and his credentials as a former member of YCT to attack conservative members of the Legislature.

“Mark McCaig has sold his conservative credentials to the highest bidder—in this case liberal Democrat Steve Mostyn,” said Jeff Morris, YCT State Chairman. “No true conservative would work for the man who spent $10 million last election cycle working to defeat conservative candidates across Texas and who has hosted fundraisers with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi in his own home. We are outraged by McCaig’s deception and his continued use of his past membership in YCT membership to bolster his attacks on conservative legislators. We will make sure that conservative voters are informed of his efforts to deceive them.”

Mostyn, the past President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, spent millions against Gov. Rick Perry in the last election cycle and has donated a million dollars to Harris County Democrats. Mostyn is also the largest funder of Texans for Insurance Reform, a trial lawyer front group that opposes conservative candidates.

“Mark McCaig may claim to be a conservative and may have once been a YCT member years ago, but his conservative credentials dissolved the minute he sold out to his new boss,” said Tony McDonald, YCT Senior Vice Chairman. “Conservative voters should not be fooled by his rhetoric about ‘conservative principles.’ He is, and always has been, only concerned with reversing the conservative lawsuit reforms passed by Republicans over the last decade.”
 You can learn more about Mark McCaig here, here, and here.

McCaig's now calling himself the principled conservative in the race, a declaration that's laughable to anyone whose memory extends past five years.


Bottom Line: That the primary for one of the most winnable Texas house races anywhere in the state features an educrat mouthpiece running against a trial lawyer mouthpiece tells you everything you need to know about the status of the so-called "conservative" party.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

#TXLEGE: Turns out the Heartbeat bill is actually pretty popular

"For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb."
Psalm 139:13

This week's Trib poll:
Nearly half of Texas voters — and more than two-thirds of Republicans — would support the kind of ban on abortions in the early stages of pregnancy that lawmakers in Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia recently passed, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Just under half (48%) of Texas voters support making abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, as a half-dozen states have done with “early abortion bans” or “heartbeat” bills that would outlaw abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Another 42% said they oppose such a law.

Party identification marked the biggest divide on the question, with 68% of Republicans saying they would favor an early limit on abortions and 63% of Democrats saying they would oppose it. Proposals to impose these kinds of early limits didn’t advance in the just-finished legislative session.
Obviously, protecting life is about protecting life.  While prudence might suggest certain concessions to feasibility and/or practicality, the basic principle stands.  Poll numbers shouldn't matter.


All session long, we were told that the reason we couldn't pass real pro-life bills was because the big 3 were terrified of public backlash.  Well, there's your public backlash.  It looks like a pretty solid plurality.

Keep in mind, that's after months of one sided messaging; in a more balanced messaging environment, there's every reason to believe those numbers would go up.

Yet our elected officials refuse to try.

Bottom Line: Even by our elected officials own standards, Texas' failure to act on this issue is pathetic....

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Paxton Prosecutors' SHAKEDOWN DENIED (All Over Again)

"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

Some good news:
After mulling the question for nearly six months, the nine Republican judges on Texas’ highest criminal court will not reconsider their 2018 ruling that threatens to imperil the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In November, a fractured Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a six-figure payment to the special prosecutors appointed to take Paxton to trial for felony securities fraud fell outside legal limits for what such attorneys may be paid. A month later, the attorneys asked the high court to reconsider that decision in a spirited legal filing that went unanswered until this week.


Payments for special prosecutors are based on strict fee schedules, but judges are permitted to approve payments outside those strictures in unusual circumstances, as a North Texas GOP judge did for the prosecutors in the Paxton case. But after Jeff Blackard, a Paxton donor, sued in December 2015, claiming that the fees were exorbitant, the Dallas Court of Appeals voided the prosecutors’ invoice and the payment has been in question. Meanwhile, the trial has been derailed again and again.

Wednesday’s ruling threatens the long-delayed prosecution of Texas’ top lawyer as the prosecutors — unpaid for years — have signaled they may withdraw from the case if they cannot be paid.
As we explained last fall, the prosecutors' intransigence on this payment issue was a tell for the weakness of their case.  Had they brought Paxton to trial, and obtained a conviction, nobody would object to their invoice.  Lawyers who are confident in their case are ALWAYS willing to work on a contingency basis.

Bottom Line: This travesty should have been shut down years ago.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

#TXLEGE: One interesting, modestly positive, note deeper in the budget

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

From the Trib story on Abbott signing the budget:
Other portions of the budget didn’t see as much growth. The $84 billion for health and human services programs is up just 1% from the last two-year cycle, and Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is facing a $900 million cut.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

What's interesting about this is, for as much of an insaneo spending spree as they went on over education, there was no equivalent on health care.

From a macroeconomic perspective, if the state were to get serious about health care and Medicaid costs, conceivably we could absorb a rather large increase in education spending.  That's not to say that the other problems in the system would go away.  But it is to say the impact on economic growth could be contained.

Of course, all of this would require several years to play out.

Bottom Line: Probably won't amount to much, but it is a situation worth keeping an eye on....

Monday, June 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: Having lawlessly expanded executive power, Abbott refuses to exercise valid authority

"Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—"
Revelation 3:17

LOL, of course:
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s roughly $250 billion budget Saturday, bringing a session-long effort to address the Legislature’s top priorities — school funding and property taxes — to a close.

A spokesman for Abbott confirmed that the governor signed the budget without issuing a single line-item veto, a mechanism that allows him to shrink the budget where he sees fit.

The 2020-21 budget, which state lawmakers approved in May, includes a significant boost in spending compared with two years ago. Lawmakers had billions of dollars more to spend thanks to a positive economic forecast and revised revenue estimates from oil and natural gas production taxes. Total spending is up 16% from the budget the Legislature approved in 2017.

Much of that extra money went to state leadership’s two legislative priorities for 2019. Abbott has already approved a $11.6 billion school finance package that doled out $6.5 billion in new spending for schools and $5.1 billion to buy down Texans’ property tax bills. In total, the state budget spends $94.5 billion on education, which includes funding for public schools and universities. Not including tax break funds, the Legislative Budget Board calculates that the education portion of the budget grew 10%.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Last Thursday, Abbott invented authority out of thin air to preserve an industry cartel.  On Sunday, he couldn't find a single place to use his constitutional authority on behalf of taxpayers.  Got it.

Bottom Line: Priorities people....

Friday, June 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: Regulated Incumbent Industry SPEWS SEWAGE over Liberty and Rule of Law

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

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776)

We said our piece yesterday about Abbott's move on the plumbers board.  He needs to get sued.  In case that situation weren't sufficiently depressing, however, we made the mistake of attending this morning's victory lap at the Capitol.

Ayn Rand couldn't have scripted it better.

Speakers listed litany of alleged perils to public "health and safety" from plumbing without papers.  Apparently, a dysfunctional state agency is the only thing standing between Texans and exploding water heaters.  Likewise, according to speakers, that same dysfunctional state agency are the only ones qualified to supervise gas lines.

The speakers seemed hyperbolic.

Also, Soviet style signs:

And this nonsense:

Moving forward, their goal is to maintain the plumbing board as a stand alone agency (with a bigger budget, natch).

Regulatory capture much?!?

Bottom Line: There are few things in life more irritating that when people claim to be protecting the public while they're, in reality, protecting themselves....

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Abbott just established an INSANELY DANGEROUS precedent

"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."
James 1:14

Bad...REALLY bad:
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on August 23, 2017, as subsequently amended on August 26, August 27, August 28, and September 14, 2017, certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for certain counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, on September 20, 2017, and in each subsequent month effective through today, I issued proclamations renewing the disaster declaration; and

WHEREAS, recovery from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey continues for millions of Texans living in no fewer than sixty counties across the state; and

WHEREAS, the magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including through the disaster aid bill signed by President Donald J. Trump on June 6, 2019; and

WHEREAS, a qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects; and

WHEREAS, Texas must also be ready for future disasters, by building sound infrastructure that can withstand major weather or other events and by ensuring that qualified workers stand ready to rebuild, and June 1, 2019, marked the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season; and

WHEREAS, the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, whose mission is “to protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” will continue to play an essential role in all these efforts by ensuring that the plumbers who rebuild Texas and prepare for future disasters do so in a manner that will safeguard public health, safety, and property; and

WHEREAS, Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code provides that the Board is to be abolished on September 1, 2019, along with expiration of the Plumbing License Law, Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1301, because they were not continued in existence by the 86th Legislature pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act, Texas Government Code, Chapter 325; and

WHEREAS, abolition of the Board would threaten recovery efforts, diminish hurricane preparedness, and heighten the dangers I am responsible for meeting under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Texas Government Code, Chapter 418; and

WHEREAS, in Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code, the legislature has empowered the governor to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business . . . if strict compliance with the provisions . . . would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster”; and

WHEREAS, the 86th Legislature further expanded the governor’s authority in Senate Bill 285 by enacting Section 418.128(b) of the Texas Government Code, effective September 1, 2019, pursuant to which, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, the governor may, by executive order, take any action necessary to ensure each state agency . . . is able to respond to a hurricane”; and

WHEREAS, to fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans;

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Texas Constitution and the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, I do hereby suspend Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code to prevent the imminent abolition of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and expiration of the Plumbing License Law on September 1, 2019, and to delay that abolition and expiration until disaster needs subside or the 87th legislature addresses the matter. To facilitate the legislature’s consideration of the issue, this suspension shall have the force and effect of law until May 31, 2021.

This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.

Given under my hand this the 13th day of June, 2019.

This is madness.

He's using Hurricane Harvey as an excuse to extend an unrelated state agency.  Two years after the storm.  We've seen some shoehorns in our life, but none that big.


That being said, it'll be interesting to see how the legislature reacts.  Extending the plumbers board is a function of the legislature, NOT the executive branch.  If the legislature has any self respect (*), they ought to both raise hell AND make the Governor pay.

Bottom Line: It does not take a genius to see how this goes horribly, horribly wrong....


* -- Yeah, we know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#TXLEGE: If you still need proof this Chick-fil-a bill was a joke

"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience."
Ephesians 5:6

LOL, from the Human Rights Campaign:
With the leadership of the LGBTQ Caucus, the Texas legislative session concluded with only one anti-LGBTQ bill, SB 1978, being passed into law. SB 1978 was originally filed as a broad, sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill. However, after concerns raised by the LGBTQ Caucus, advocates and other organizations, significant changes were made to the bill. HRC opposed SB 1978, but was pleased that it passed in a form which causes no significant legal harm to the LGBTQ community.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
"No significant legal harm the the LGBTQ community" is lawyer-speak for "does nothing."

This is the substantive equivalent of the SCOTUS Colorado cake-baker case: The legislature addressed the specific actions of the San Antonio city council, but did nothing to address any other sort of abuse that falls outside of that narrow set of circumstances.

Good luck trying to live out your Faith in all the other areas of life.

But at least they were able to convince Fox News they accomplished something (and that's all that really matters).

Bottom Line: Nothing of substance was accomplished, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either a liar or a chump....

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Governor FoxNews successfully PROPAGANDIZES multiple GULLIBLE, LAZY Conservative Media Outlets

"The simple believes every word,
But the prudent considers well his steps."
Proverbs 14:15

[Note: Leon Wolf at The Blaze published this godawful hot-mess on the exact same subject while we were writing a longer response to the Daily Wire.  For simplicity's sake, we're going to stick with responding to the Daily Wire.  But, if anything, this blog post applies even more to the Blaze (who really SHOULD know better) than the Daily Wire.]

There was a Daily Wire piece going around yesterday that's almost impossible to read if you were paying attention to this past legislative session.  Written by Asche Schow, the article strings together a few Abbott tweets into an undeserved narrative about Abbott's alleged conservatism.  If you want to understand how Abbott ROUTINELY spins national conservative media, yesterday's Daily Wire item is a great place to start.

To begin, Schow writes:
Gov. Greg Abbot (R-TX) had a stellar opening week of June. With few exceptions, the governor lived up to his state’s reputation for defending freedom.

[Note: Emphasis added.]

Schow continues:
In a series of tweets last week that ended up going viral, Abbott announced that he had signed legislation that would protect free speech rights on college campuses, ban red light cameras, and allow people to have beer delivered to their homes.
In fairness to Schow, all of Abbott's actions look good in isolation.  That's why Abbott spins them that way.  But all lack context.


Campus Speech:

About SB 18, Schow writes:
On June 9, Abbott posted another video of himself signing a law — this time in an effort to protect the First Amendment on college campuses.

“Some colleges are banning free speech on college campuses,” Abbott said in the video. “Well, no more because I’m about to sign a law that protects free speech on college campuses in Texas.”

“Shouldn’t have to do it,” he added after signing the bill. “The First Amendment guarantees it. Now, it’s law in Texas.”
Sounds great...until you realize:
  1. The Governor of Texas appoints University Boards of Regents.
  2. Boards of Regents routinely turn a blind eye to speech related abuses.
  3. Similarly, Boards of Regents routinely ignore laws passed by the legislature.
  4. The Texas Senate just rubber stamped all of Abbott's Regent nominees.
Thus, while SB 18 is a (modestly) welcome development, nobody should be under any illusions about the future of higher ed. in Texas.

Which is a shame, because if Abbott were serious about it (and, thus, the Boards of Regents were were serious about it), we could have addressed this issue four years ago.

But how would that help Abbott get puff pieces written about him in the Daily Wire?!?


Beer to Go:

Schow also writes:
Two days later, Abbott posted another tweet, this time of him signing a law that would allow Texas citizens to “order beer and wine from retailers to be delivered to your home.” “Enjoy responsibly,” he added.
Except that Texas is, literally, the last state in the country to allow this.

Maybe not the best example of our Governor "defending freedom?!?"


"Defending Freedom" in general:

In fairness to Schow, she does knock Abbott over the smoking age fiasco:
On Friday, Abbott signed a bill that increases the purchase age of tobacco products — including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes — from 18 to 21. Those in the military are exempted from the law. As CBS Austin reported, supporters of the bill said it would “save lives because 95 percent of smokers start before age 21, and three fourths of adult smokers try their first cigarette before their 18th birthday.”

So now those statistics will just shift until 21. Supporters also failed to note that one does not have to personally purchase cigarettes in order to get their hands on one before they are legally able to purchase.
So that's good.  It certainly illustrates how all is not as it seems in the Texas Legislature.  But still....

Schow's biggest problem is less what she says (ie. sins of commission) and more what she ignores (ie. sins of omission).  Perhaps that's not surprising coming from an author who, according to her own bio, lives in Virginia.  Still, it's unhelpful.

By Schow's own standard, do any of the following sound like they're "defending freedom?!?"

  • Creating a "mental health consortium" (through lawless means) in the name of "school safety."  At best, this boondoggle will subsidize shoving more Addreall type drugs down children's throats.  At worst, God only knows the unintended consequences....
  • Raising taxes on ordinary Texans to finance abatements for those who can afford lobbyists.
    • Note for #TXLEGE nerds: Chapter 312 and 313 renewal.
  • Not a DAMN THING on Guns.
In that context, does it sound like our Governor is "defending freedom?!?"


Why this matters:

Like it or not, outlets like Fox News, the Daily Wire, and the Blaze have far more influence over Texas voters than all state level outlets combined.

When they unquestioningly regurgitate Greg Abbott's propaganda, it enables all sorts of other bad behavior from Abbott (examples listed above).


 Why this matters for Texas going blue:

Every time government expands, it creates new political constituencies for big government.  If Republicans expand government enough, eventually, those new constituencies start electing Democrats.  It's what happened in Ms. Schow's home state of Virginia.

As long as Greg Abbott is getting these sorts of headlines from national conservative outlets, he will NEVER do the hard work of taking on those afore mentioned constituencies.

If those constituencies keep growing, know.


Bottom Line: Texas is less free as a result of the 86th legislative session.  Greg Abbott is a big part of the reason why.  Unfortunately, nothing will change as long as national conservative outlets keep swallowing his propaganda....

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chip Roy will LOSE if he campaigns against "Hollywood and Manhattan elites"

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14

It's not a secret that Wendy Davis is probably running against Chip Roy; unfortunately, Chip's opening salvo is depressing beyond words:

This is an idiotic strategy that is doomed to fail.


Or at least: No swing voter or soft partisan in CD-21 cares.  CD-21 is Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country.  Swing voters/Soft partisans in CD-21 are the type of people who travel to places like New York City and Southern California.  They might not like the policies of those places, but they will roll their eyes at this sort of nonsense.

Campaigning against "Hollywood" is intellectually-lazy claptrapIt's a dying playbook.  We strongly suspect that, in Austin, San Antonio, and the Hill Country, it's already dead.  If anything, it will produce negative returns.

Bottom Line: This is the stupidest political attack since Ted Cruz's campaign went after hair dye....

Saturday, June 8, 2019

#TXLEGE: The Cheapest Date in the Legislature

"You sell Your people for next to nothing,
And are not enriched by selling them."
Psalm 44:12

Yesterday, we discussed the 2015 Scott Turner supporters who got committee chairmanships and had drastic drop-offs.

Yet one legislator merits special derision: Scott Sanford.

He suffered a dropoff on par with the others...and he didn't even get a chairmanship.


None of his bills particularly stand out.  Some look ok.  But nothing's anything special.

He gave up everything, and got literally nothing for it.

Bottom Line: It takes a special sprit of passive surrender to receive this haul; way to negotiate buddy....

Friday, June 7, 2019

#TXLEGE: 2015 Turner supporters who got committee chairs suffered biggest dropoff

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
1 John 1:8

[Note: Jeremy Kitchen created a spreadsheet with information about how legislators scored on various indexes.  We consulted it extensively preparing this post.  Due to formating issues, it's easier to discuss conclusions without extensive cutting and pasting.  But we plug it heavily and you can view it for yourself here.]

With Empower Texans' index out, session to session comparisons are now appropriate.

Among the biggest dropoffs: Jeff Leach (-32), Dustin Burrows (-28), and Stephanie Klick (-20).

[Note: Scott Sanford was also a -26, but he's likely to be the subject of another blog post.]

What traits do the three members listed above share?!?  Two sessions ago, all three voted for Scott Turner for Speaker.  This past session, they were committee chairs.

Indeed, they were the reason why we were initially hopeful over Bonnen's committee assignments.

[Note: LOL on what we said about Leach and Klick here.]

One conclusion is obvious: We thought the committee chairs in question would change the house.  Instead, becoming committee chairs changed those members.  Sadly.

The borg adapts, you will be assimilated.

Bottom Line: It just is what it is (but what it is isn't good)....

Thursday, June 6, 2019

#TXLEGE: Abbott Thumbs Nose at Citizenry (pharmaceutical lobbyists got paid)

"And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said."
Exodus 7:13

Among the bills signed by Abbott at Thursday’s bill signing event was Senate Bill 11. Originally focused on school safety in the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, the bill was amended to include the creation of the “Texas Mental Health Care Consortium” after State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) killed a separate bill to do exactly that on procedural grounds earlier in the evening.


Despite the bill’s unanimous passage in the Senate and near-unanimous passage in the House, many conservative activists raised concerns over parental rights, privacy, and the potential for over-medication of psychotropic drugs.

After the bill passed the legislature, a coalition of conservative organizations across the state, including Grassroots America We The People and the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, wrote to Abbott to urge him to veto his priority legislation.

“We greatly appreciate your efforts to make schools safer. Regrettably, we cannot support these bills. SB 11 contained several features that directly addressed school safety. However, it also had provisions of concern. While some groups attempted to get these concerns addressed, the bill was only made worse,” the group said in a letter dated May 29. “We believe that the use of a psychiatric consortium that has inherent connections to the pharmaceutical industry simply puts Texas children at risk of dangerous psychotropic drugging and policies that lead to the same.”

The request fell on deaf ears, however, as Abbott signed the legislation without even responding to their objections.
 Bottom Line: Never waste a good crisis....

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

#TXLEGE: Will Abbott retreat into LAWLESSNESS to protect incumbent plumbers?!?

"And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
Matthew 7:23

Not good:
In the final moments of the 86th Legislative Session in Austin, a bill extending the life of the State Board of Plumbing Examiners was killed in the Texas House, thus resulting in the end of licensed plumbing in Texas and one of the biggest accidental victories in occupational license reform in Texas.

At least, that was supposed to be the outcome. Now, hopes for a free plumbing market in Texas appear to have gone down the drain.

Since then, plumbing trade groups have been vocally demanding the legislature return for a special session in order to protect its occupational license scheme, looking out for their own protectionist barriers to entry and trying to flush out the competition. On Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter to say that they need not worry:

“We’ve got this. The Legislature has given the Governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needing to call a special session,” said Abbott. “We will let you know very soon. Don’t worry.”
The Texas Scorecard piece goes on to contrast Abbott's recent maneuvers with what he said on the campaign trail.

It's...not flattering.

Beyond Abbott's flip-flop, however, what's really horrifying is the lawlessness.

The Texas Constitution grants legislative authority to the legislature.  The legislature didn't act.  If Greg Abbott wants the legislature to act, he can call a special session.

That should be the end of story.

Instead, Abbott's trying to invent new authority out of thin air.

It's a precedent that should scare everyone.

[Note: That Abbott (as Attorney General) once sued Barack Obama over this exact topic is, at a minimum, ironic.]

Bottom Line:  Whatever your opinion on the regulation of plumbing, it's a question for the legislature, not the Governor making...stuff...up out of thin air.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cruz & Roy are first Republicans, ANYWHERE, to handle Occasio-Cortez correctly

"Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

By now you've heard:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz committed on Thursday to partner up with his political opposite, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to move legislation that would ban members of Congress from becoming corporate lobbyists after they leave public life.
The two were joined by Chip Roy.

This is an obvious, no-brainer, idea that should have been enacted a long time ago.  That it hasn't been speaks to the perverse incentives riddling congress.  We applaud Senator Cruz and Representatives Cortez and Roy for forcing the discussion.  Godspeed.

There's another, more important, point to consider.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has been a national political figure for about a year. Yes, we have seen some criticism of her ideas & policies.  But we've seen a lot more derogatory commentary about people who work in the service industry.  And this taking her out of context to make her look stupid schtick needs to die.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez's success comes from her willingness to call out obvious nonsense in the American economy.  It was the theme of her campaign.  It was why she live-tweeted the Congressional brainwashing session.  It's why she ridicules some of the more transparent phonies in recent memory.

Most of the time, she just goes after low-hanging fruit no-one else wants to touch...

...which is why seeing Ted Cruz and Chip Roy take her up on that low hanging fruit was so refreshing.

There's no reason why Alexandria Occasio-Cortez should have this issue to herself.

Let's not kid ourselves: Banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists faces GIGANTIC institutional opposition.  But that's no reason not to try.  At a minimum, you get some positive media coverage out of it.

It's certainly a more intelligent strategy than disparaging people who work in the service industry.

Bottom Line: Maybe it shouldn't be that way.  But it is.  If we can actually ban former members of congress from becoming lobbyists, so much the better.

Monday, June 3, 2019

#TXLEGE: A more honorable type of scoundrel

"A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction."
Ecclesiastes 6:2

Since session ended, there's been a decent amount of commentary comparing the last two speakers.

The truth is they're both pretty terrible.

Under Straus, you got some modest pro-life bills (Note: Usually when the Governor forced this issue), and little else.  Under Bonnen, you got some decent movement on property taxes, and nothing else.  Neither is acceptable.

The biggest difference is Dennis Bonnen says to your face the things Joe Straus said behind your back.

Where Joe Straus stabbed you in the back, Dennis Bonnen stabs you in the front.

Either way, stab wounds are generally unhelpful.

Bottom Line: Even if the process does improve, does it really matter if the results stay the same?!?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

#TXLEGE: Long Shot bid to VETO AWFUL so-called "Mental Health" Bills

"And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said."
Exodus 7:13

After what they did to pass this bill out of the house, we doubt it'll do much good, but signing this coalition letter was nevertheless an easy call:

Bottom Line: The odds of Abbott vetoing something he's been pushing for months are essentially zero. It's still the right thing to do. Here's hoping.