Saturday, December 10, 2016

Incremental tie down of Team Straus continues....


"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Mark Jones has data that backs up something we'd noticed informally last session:
The 84th (2015-16) Legislative Session witnessed a Democratic Texas House delegation that was on the losing side of about as many final passage votes as on the winning side. This represented a sharp contrast to the 2009-14 period, when the average Democrat had a final passage vote win rate that was higher than that of the average Republican. It suggests that Democrats' level of influence on the House legislative agenda declined notably in 2015, with Democrats more frequently unable to both keep legislation they opposed off of the floor as well as to gain majority backing for legislation they supported.

In 2009, 11 Republican representatives joined forces with an overwhelming majority of Democratic representatives to oust Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and replace him with Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Speaker Straus thus began his speakership indebted to House Democrats, allowing them a de facto veto over the legislative agenda that year. In 2011 and 2013, Democrats no longer possessed this de facto veto power, but they nevertheless retained substantial influence over the legislative agenda — influence that was reflected in them being more likely on average to be on the winning side of final passage votes than their Republican colleagues, even though during this entire period the Texas House of Representatives had a Republican majority.

....

In 2015, Democratic win rates plummeted to lows not seen since 2005 during the zenith of the Craddick speakership. At least from the optic of win rates on final passage votes, the impact of Texas Democrats on the legislative agenda during the 84th Legislative Session was substantially weaker than in the three preceding sessions of Straus' speakership.

The median Democratic win rate in 2015 was a mere 52 percent, with win rates ranging from a low of 40 percent to a high of 67 percent. At 82 percent, the median Republican win rate in 2015 was significantly higher than the Democratic median, with win rates ranging from a low of 54 percent to a high of 93 percent. All of the Republican ideological quartiles had median win rates greater than that of the Democratic delegation median, with the respective win rates declining as the level of conservatism increased among the quartiles: 90 percent, 87 percent, 82 percent, and 71 percent.

As a further example of this change, in 2013 a majority of Republicans (53 out of 94) had a win rate that was lower than that of the Democrat with the lowest win rate. In 2015, only 8 Republicans out of 97 had a win rate that was lower than that of the Democrat with the highest win rate.

In 2015, the win rate gap between the least and most conservative quartiles of the Texas House Republican Caucus narrowed noticeably, from 29 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2015. This phenomenon indicates a combination of more movement conservatives aligning themselves with Straus than in the past and Straus and his leadership team shifting the legislative agenda somewhat to the right in order to bring movement conservatives more into the fold. As part of that shift, the House leadership relied more heavily in 2015 on the votes of movement conservative Republicans than on the votes of Democrats to push through its legislative agenda, a contrast to the three preceding sessions when the centrist conservative Republican House leadership on average tended to rely more on the support of Democrats (especially in 2009 and 2013) than on that of their movement conservative GOP brethren.

As we look toward the 85th Legislative Session, Democrats once again find themselves outnumbered in the House, 95 to 55. If Straus and his leadership team follow the same general legislative game plan as in 2015, relying more on the support of movement conservative Republicans than of Democrats, then the influence of Democrats on the House agenda is likely to again be reduced compared to 2013, let alone to their halcyon days of 2009. A corollary of this repeat of 2015 would be a House whose legislative agenda is more in tune with the preferences of more movement conservatives than was the case between 2009 and 2014.
Read the whole thing, and see the data for yourself, here.

Bottom Line: We know it's happening at an INFURIATINGLY slow pace. We know, in a state like Texas, they should be doing A LOT more. But, nevertheless, the long-term trends in the #TXLEGE are inexorably on our side so long as we remain diligent and persistent....

Friday, December 9, 2016

(U of H Board Chairman) Tilman Fertitta's (recent) political donations


"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home."
Luke 16:9

It's not a secret, between the land grab and the Tom Herman hire, that those within U of H circles are livid with UT.  We were still struck by a rather...bold...comment from U of H Board Chairman Tilman Fertitta following the Herman hire.  That got us thinking: If Tilman Fertitta starts making phone calls around the legislature next session, who's likely to listen?!?

We reviewed Texas "Ethics" Commission data for the past two election cycles.  Fertitta appears to be a pretty typical big money donor in that he donates to everyone regardless of ideology.  For the most part, he donates within Harris County, although there are some interesting ones outside of the area as well.

Results are mostly presented in the order in which they appear on the "Ethics" commission website.  The primary exception is that we moved statewide officials to the top of the list.  Former members of the legislature who will not return next session have been excluded.

The list:

  • Greg Abbott: $404,000
  • Dan Patrick: $189,723
    • Author's Note: To his credit, Fertitta gave to Patrick during the 2014 primary but does not appear to have given to David Dewhurst.
  • Ken Paxton: $25,000
    • Note: Again, to his credit, he gave to Paxton during the 2014 runoff but does not appear to have given to Dan Branch.
  • Glenn Hegar: $50,000
  • George P. Bush: $15,000
  • Joe Straus: $35,000
  • Joan Huffman: $25,000
  • John Whitmire: $45,000
  • Senfonia Thompson: $3,500
  • Craig Goldman: $1,000
  • Ana Hernandez: $2,000
  • Dennis Paul: $1,000
  • Charles Schwertner: $3,500
  • Dan Huberty: $2,000
  • Kelly Hancock: $12,500
  • Gene Wu: $2000
  • Donna Campbell: $3,500
  • Sylvia Garcia: $5,000
  • Van Taylor: $2,500
  • Konni Burton: $2,500
  • Paul Bettencourt: $7,500
  • Trent Ashby: $1,000
  • Charles Perry: $2,500
  • John Zerwas: $2,500
    • Author's Note: House Higher ed committee chairman last session.
  • Byron Cook: $2,500
  • Alma Allen: $2,000
  • Lyle Larson: $1,000
  • Brian Birdwell: $3,500
  • Todd Hunter: $2,500
  • Chuy Hinojosa: $1,000
  • Will Metcalf: $1,000
  • Jose Menendez: $1,000
  • John Keumpel: $1,000
  • Sarah Davis: $1,000
  • Phil King: $2,000
  • Garnet Coleman: $2,000
  • Jim Murphy: $2,000
  • Oscar Longoria: $1,000
  • Mike Schofield: $2,000
  • Hubert Vo: $2,000
  • Jane Nelson: $2,500
  • Armando Walle: $1,000
  • Dennis Bonnen: $3,500
  • Craig Estes: $2,500
  • Ed Thompson: $1,000
  • Robert Nichols: $1,000
  • Larry Taylor: $5,000
  • Dwayne Bohac: $1,000
  • Geanie Morrison: $1,000
  • Lois Kolkhorst: $2,500
  • Travis Clardy: $2,000
  • Charlie Geren: $1,000
  • Dan Flynn: $2,000
    • Author's Note: Oh, fun....

Dan Flynn continues to Hypocritically Embarrass Himself....


"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,"
Romans 1:24

So...this happened:


Six weeks ago, when Flynn attacked political correctness at UT, we wrote:
So the same Dan Flynn who surrendered his dignity in an attempt to impeach the Regent who was pursuing accountability against that self-same "politically correct" university administration now has the chutzpah to complain about a sensationalistic story that made national news?!?

SJW-related nonsense is the natural result of the University of Texas (and higher education in general) having too much money.   When he had the opportunity to do something about it, Dan Flynn instead chose to protect that money.  Nobody should be surprised by what followed.

We look forward to the bevy of Higher Ed. reform bills Dan Flynn intends to file next session but... we're not going to hold our breath.

Bottom Line: Actions speak louder than Facebook.
Time to play Dan Flynn Mad Libs:
So the same Dan Flynn who surrendered his dignity in an attempt to impeach a state agency board member who was pursuing accountability against that self same state agency now has the chutzpah to complain about state agency board members who refuse to do their jobs?!?

State agency board members who fail to perform oversight is the natural result of a go-along-get-along-good-ol'-boy culture in the legislature that fails to demand accountability.  When he had the opportunity to do something about it, Dan Flynn instead chose to protect that go-along-get-along-good-ol'-boy culture.  Nobody should be surprised by what followed.

We look forward to the bevy of state agency board accountability bills Dan Flynn intends to file next session but...it's not up there so far (although has has re-filed his stupid anti-Daylight Savings time bill).

Bottom Line: Actions speak louder than Facebook.
Bottom Line: No one who participated in the Wallace Hall impeachment can ever complain about state agency board members not doing their jobs ever again.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Texas Senate moves Local Government Accountability forward


"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
Hebrews 4:13

[Author's Note: Hat tip to TPPF; we'll include their statements below.]

Local government debt, involuntary annexation, and and nanny state ordinances share the common characteristic that they're power grabs by local governmental entities. The Texas Senate's committee on Intergovernmental Relations recently released an interim report that proposes remedies for each.  Our only modest quibble is that they didn't explicitly discuss the Uber/Lyft issue, but in fairness to the committee that issue didn't emerge until fairly late in the process.

Committee report recommendations:
  • The legislature should consider providing consistency and eliminating the possibility of variances by strengthening the uniformity in ordinance procedures and standards.
  • The legislature should improve transparency and find a more appropriate balance between drafting ordinances and providing ordinance information to voters by supporting reforms that provide increased transparency through best practices in Texas statutes that provide a common-sense standard in regard to the process, form, and model language.
  • The legislature should weigh-in and afford, at a minimum, critical criteria to ensure that ballot language is not misleading by codifying the recent Texas Supreme Court decision that establishes the "definiteness and certainty" standard in the wording of the ordinances.
  • The legislature should take steps to ensure that when local jurisdictions are found by a court of law to have purposely included misleading chief features of an ordinance, measured through their word choice, that safeguards are provided in statutes to eliminate the burden on taxpayers challenging propositions that lack definiteness and certainty.
  • The legislature should provide a better balance in election contests so as to encourage greater transparency and compliance with state law in ordinance development, drafting, and balloting.
  • The legislature should find a better balance in election contests so as to encourage greater citizen participation, while safeguarding the integrity of ordinance development, drafting, and balloting.
  • The legislature should strengthen the delicate balance between cities wishing to expand their jurisdiction and safeguarding private property rights by increasing transparency in the annexation process through greater notice requirements for impacted stakeholders.
  • In order to improve the annexation process and provide greater transparency and informed consent to those impacted, the legislature should consider updating the annexation process to provide guidance regarding parcels of land subject to a 3 year annexation plan.
  • The legislature should strengthen the annexation process by encouraging greater citizen participation from those impacted by a proposed annexation plan.
  • The legislature should ensure uniform structure and procedures that eliminate unnecessary and burdensome administrative requirements that impeded citizen interaction in locally-driven petitions.
  • The legislature should build-in better statutory safeguards to facilitate greater citizen compliance with administrative petition requirements.
  • In order to enhance greater citizen participation and increase uniformity, the legislature should establish uniform thresholds for citizen petitions.
  • The legislature should consider providing basic essential information that will inform voters of the potential impact of the issuance of new financial obligations.
    • Author's Note: "new financial obligations" = bonds.
  • The legislature should consider the different possibilities of informing potential voters of the chief measures found in aggregate-item elections.
  • The term of new bond debt should not exceed the life of the capital improvements financed by bond proceeds; and unspent bond proceeds should not be used for projects other than those approved by voters at the ballot box.
    • eg. Using bonds to purchase iPads.
Read the whole report here.

-----

TPPF statement on the annexation component:
“It’s time for the Texas Legislature to right a terrible wrong in our state by ending involuntary annexation,” said Quintero. “Under the current setup, cities can annex Texans living on the outskirts without their permission, letting officials force their taxes, debts, and regulatory schemes onto people who were never asked. That goes against everything that Texas stands for. Changes, like those put forward in the Texas Senate’s new report, are sorely needed to protect private property rights and allow Texans to participate in the democratic process.”
TPPF statement on the local debt component:
“Texas’ local governments are awash in a sea of red ink,” said Quintero. “The latest data suggests that local debt totals more than $338 billion, or roughly $12,300 owed for every man, woman, and child in the state. That’s a stunning level of debt. While there are no silver bullets to solve Texas’ massive local debt problem, there are steps that can be taken to step back from the brink, like those put forward in the Texas Senate’s new interim report on local governments. One of the most important is to better inform Texas voters on the impact of their decisions at the ballot box. Every time a Texan steps in the voting booth, he or she should know, at least, the total cost of the proposed bond (principal and interest) and how its passage would affect their taxes. Making sure that every Texan has that information at their fingertips would go a long way toward improving the current system.”
TPPF statement on the Nanny state component:
“Transparency and accountability are sorely lacking in today’s local policymaking process,” said Quintero. “Around the state, examples abound of local officials misleading, confusing, or providing insufficient information to their constituents on ballot propositions and local ordinances. This is a concerning trend, rightly identified by the Texas Senate’s new report, that should be swiftly dealt with in the next legislative session.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Burton responds to overcriminalization by challenging BOTH parties sacred cows....


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

Konni Burton filed a bill today that would prohibit arresting citizens for Class C misdemeanors (unfortunately, except for so-called 'public intoxication'); Grits for Breakfast analyzes the politics perfectly:
This is one of those issues which separates wheat from chaff in both parties: It divides Republicans who really want less government from those who just talk a good game. And it flushes out all the Dems whose fealty to "civil rights" ends at voting rights but somehow never extends to the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments if the police unions complain.
Read the whole thing here; Charles Blain has more here.

UT-RGV's woes further undermine McRaven's credibility....


"He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."
Proverbs 28:13

Chancellor McRaven Fall 2015:
“If we put forth the imagination, if we put forth the effort, there is nothing that can stop this university from moving in the right direction,” McRaven said. “But today is just the beginning. We will have to work every day, every week, every month and every year to continue to improve what we are starting today. What we do here today will change the social fabric of the Valley. It will make us stronger, healthier, more productive and more tolerant. One hundred years from now, Texas will look back and say that this day changed Texas forever.”
Chancellor McRaven, this past summer:
It took nearly seven decades for the medical school to become a reality for the Rio Grande Valley. As UT System Chancellor William McRaven stated, “The loop has finally been closed that will change the trajectory for the entire region.”
The Trib yesterday:
A federally mandated commission that handles accreditation for universities in the southern United States placed the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on probation Tuesday, possibly putting at risk the reputation of the school and the ability of its students to receive certain financial aid.

The move is a blow for school officials working to build the UT System school into a research and education powerhouse for the South Texas region. The probation period will last for a year and won't have an immediate effect on how the university is run. But, according to the accreditation agency's sanction policy, probation "is usually, but not necessarily, invoked as the last step before an institution is removed from membership."

Losing accreditation would be devastating for the school. Students who attend unaccredited schools might not qualify for federal financial aid, and many employers and professional licensing organizations require that their applicants be graduates of accredited schools.
Bottom Line: Given the underlying reality, for Chancellor McRaven to engage in this sort of boosterism means he's either a delusional UT politburo fanboy or he's lying; neither inspires confidence.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Drew Springer joins Team Tampon


"But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish;
A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine."
Jeremiah 10:8

From time, at least in Texas, the pro-Abortion left likes to engage in tampon related stunts.  In 2013, they had the tampon trampoline.  Heading into this upcoming legislative session, multiple Democrats have filed bills to create new subsidies for Tampons.

Now, it appears a Republican wants to get in on the act:
State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, the only Republican to file a tampon tax cut bill, said he began hearing from constituents who saw the headlines when other states passed such laws. Springer said he started receiving emails and was approached by women at town hall meetings.

"They said, 'We saw what these states are doing, and we'd like to see the same thing happen in Texas,'" Springer said. "We have the ability to say, 'I'm going to buy a Coke.' I make that choice freely. Ladies don't have the same option. [Tampons] can easily be classified as a medical property item."

....

Springer said the only opposition he can foresee on the tax exemption would be related to the loss of tax revenue, given that Texas is already under a tight budget biennium.
This is a classic example of government picking winners and losers via the tax code.  If we're going to tax consumer products, then we should tax all of them consistently.  That we've previously created politically favored (ie. those who can afford good lobbyists) categories of "medical property items" doesn't mean we should make the problem worse by creating new categories of special taxation.

(Sidenote: This is also why we oppose "tax free weekends" for hunting and fishing.)

Then there's the fact that tampons are a classic go-to move for the pro-Abortion SJW's.  Why would any Republican in their right mind want to give any sort of 'bi-partisan' political cover for this sort of nonsense?!?  Oh that's right, this is the Texas House we're talking about....

One final thought: If we eliminated exemptions and carve outs, that dopey sales tax scheme that Drew Springer backed last session might just become economically meaningful.

Bottom Line: Making the tax code more complicated and pandering to the SJW left...what's not to LOVE?!?