Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reinforcing the Texas "Medical" Association's Diabolical Wickedness....


"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"
Romans 11:33

[Note I: The sections about TMA are from 0:00 to 4:00 and from 12:00 to the end; the middle section is the chiropractic treatment.]

[Note II: This author had nothing to do with the production of this video.  Thus we were not consulted regarding Ms. Adams' wardrobe.  If some of you Baptist types have an issue with useful information being presented by an attractive woman in a semi-revealing outfit using modestly strong language, you are free to not watch the video without sending this author an angry Facebook message on the topic.]

[Note III: LOL, Baptist trigger warnings....]

Oh yeah, we'd forgotten about the chiropractors....

Over the years, this website's opposition to the texas "medical" association has primarily been rooted in their rabid support for abortion, euthanasia in hospitals, and Obamacare.  But we know they're is involved in all sorts of other terrible things.  But, like we said, we'd completely forgotten about the Chiropractors.

Gregory Johnson is a Houston based chiropractor with a popular YouTube channel.  We discovered Dr. Johnson's channel this past weekend during some fitness related research that wasn't supposed to be political.  But then the TMA video popped up....

Apparently, at some recent point, TMA attempted an effort to mandate a referral from a general practitioner before anyone in Texas could visit a chiropractor.  This was obviously a protectionist effort to use the coercive power of the state to create a new revenue stream.  We believe the effort was unsuccessful, but the fact that it had to be fought in the first place speaks volumes.

We first encountered TMA's anti-chiropractor nonsense during the Mike VanDeWalle special election campaign three years ago; at least TMA is staying classy.

This past January, Dr. Johnson released a video with professional wrestler Brooke Adams detailing TMA's latest villainy.  In the video, Dr. Johnson asks viewers to help make the video go "as viral as possible."  Considering that most of the top pro-free market activists in this state read this website, that's a request we can oblige.

Watch the full video below.

-----



Highlights:

  • Adams lives in Houston: "She wants to preserve the right [to see a chiropractor] without having to go through her medical doctor."
  • TMA trying to change "scope of practice" laws to box chiropractors out of the market.
  • Adams: "I owe the longevity of my career" to chiropractic.
    • Note: Long career or not, we'd never heard of her until we discovered Dr. Johnson's YouTube channel.
  • Adams: "I just think it's complete...[nonsense] that I have to spend extra money to go to a doctor just to get a referral."
    • Selfish and unfair to consumers.
  • Out of state clients would have to get a referral from a licensed doctor before they could see Johnson.
  • TMA has sued the chiropractors multiple times and the chiropractors have won every time.

#TXLEGE: Thoughts on #SINEDIE (take 2)....


"For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

We're still digesting the past 24 hours, but a few observations in no particular order:
  • 83 Republican house members showed up to today's caucus meeting.  That's a heck of a lot more than we expected.  We were also pleasantly surprised by the length of the meeting.
  • Joe Straus personally showing up is an admission that all is not well in the Republican caucus.
  • There was a whole bunch of traditional media at today's caucus meeting; media interest can only raise the profile of the issue..
  • We're not sure who said it (Jim Graham?!?) but they're absolutely correct: You can't support both Greg Abbott and Joe Straus anymore.
    • At this point, it remains an open question whether Greg Abbott supports Greg Abbott or Joe Straus.
  • The arrogance of house leadership remains a sight to behold: Had they simply shown up for work this morning, they probably could have run out the clock with a fairly typical act of failure theater.  But they just had to jam their thumb in the eye of Abbott, Patrick/the Senate, and the Texas grassroots.  In doing so, they elevated their profile all over again.
    • Note: The only reason we haven't completely given up on Greg Abbott is because the degree to which he's been publicly disrespected essentially demands a response.
  • Apparently, the house Republican caucus has a September retreat scheduled; grassroots activists really ought to crash that party.
    • Note: If the new RPT leadership really wanted to impress this website, they'd convince the caucus make the whole event open to the public.
  • The kumbaya messaging coming out of today's caucus meeting was obnoxious.
  • Abbott said all the right things in today's radio interview.  But Greg Abbott frequently says all the right things.  Its Greg Abbott's follow through that leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Another special session won't accomplish anything right now.
    • Note: But then there's redistricting....
  • Random Thought: We wonder if the Texas Association of Business has ever taken any money from George Soros?!?
    • cc: Abbott, Greg
  • We're getting really, really, really sick of the socialized education industrial complex's sense of entitlement....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#TXLEGE: House thumbs their nose at Texans one final time....


"Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed."
1 Samuel 2:3

We had intended to write a post about today's floor action in the house but, literally in the time it took this author to walk from the Capitol to Faulk Central Library...it appears the house has adjourned sine die (and killed property tax reform in the process).

So be it.

It's been obvious for some time that house leadership is incorrigibly wicked and that they're never going to change.

Furthermore, recent weeks have made it obvious that Greg Abbott simply wasn't willing to inflict the amount of political pain that would have been necessary to get his agenda moving; so be it.

This was just one more insult consistent with their actions all along.

So the (first) special session is done.  The Senate performed reasonably well.  The House went to increasingly great lengths of lawlessness to stifle the grassroots agenda.

So be it.

That being said, one thought: Did Tan Parker know this was coming...and was that why they moved the house Republican caucus meeting up a day?!?

Monday, August 14, 2017

#TXLEGE: Detailing today's house floor shady business....

Chris Paddie aggressively confronts Matt Krause

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

Some notable, albeit predictable, items from today:
  • Shady SB 19 calendar rule - The house adopted a calendar rule for to restrict the type of amendments eligible for the retired teacher health care bill up tomorrow.  Todd Hunter's stated reason for the amendment was to speed up the conference committee process.  Unfortunately, as Matt Rinaldi got Hunter to confess under questioning, Hunter's rule explicitly prohibits the type of amendment that would allow the Senate to concur and skip the conference committee process entirely.

    As Rinaldi correctly pointed out, adoption of this calendar rule will (because of time constraints) eliminate any chance for an agreement on helping retired teachers; so this was a vote against health care for retired teachers.

    Jonathan Stickland correctly described leadership's actions in arbitrarily and lawlessly restricting the type of amendments that can be offered as tyranny.


  • Refusal to consider third reading amendments on SB 1 - As part of an agreed upon deal during last Saturday's floor debate on the property tax bill (to get the spending cap bill to the floor), the Freedom Caucus agreed to pull down several amendments and send the bill to conference committee.  Unfortunately, leadership reneged on their end of the deal.  Thus, the freedom caucus pre-filed the amendments and intended to bring them back on third reading today.

    But Dan Huberty had other plans: Afraid to cast a record vote on the freedom caucus amendments, Huberty produced 25 signatures and immediately "called the question" (ie. moving immediately to a vote on the bill without considering amendments).  Several freedom caucus members, led by but not limited to Stickland, vigorously questioned Huberty and Dennis Bonnen about the last minute change.  Bonnen attempted to argue that second reading was the appropriate time to discuss amendments, while omitting that leadership's about face on Saturday's deal happened after second reading on SB 1.

    Following the vote, Chris Paddie aggressively confronted Matt Krause on the floor and attempted to lie about leadership's action Saturday; Paddie was physically restrained, and eventually led away from the confrontation, by Byron Cook (Note: You know it's bad when Byron Cook is the voice of reason).
  • Zedler's union dues amendment on the school finance commission bill - This one wasn't particularly shady, but it was really entertaining to watch.  During consideration of a bill to create a school finance commission, Bill Zedler offered an amendment to study how much the start.

    Dan Huberty acted particularly butthurt and claimed Zedler's amendment was some sort of restriction on the ability of teachers to participate int he political process.  Byron Cook claimed Zedler's amendment was "discrimination" against teachers.  Two separate points of order were called by democrats.

    The amendment ultimately got 49 votes, which was better than we thought it would do.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#TXLEGE: House Republicans who voted against minimally acceptable taxpayer protection.....


"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

SB 1, in the form it passed the Senate, was always a compromise bill.  Nevertheless, by moving to automatic November rollback elections at a 4% rate, you were at least making a tangible step in the right direction.  But even that modest step was too much for the house.

Among the ways the house version of SB 1 guts the bill, they moved the rollback rate from 4% to 6%; during today's floor debate, Matt Shaheen offered an ultimately unsuccessful amendment to re-establish a 4% threshold.

The following Republicans voted against Shaheen's amendment:



Bottom Line: This bill has been watered down into meaninglessness. We'll see what happens in the event of a conference committee. In the meantime, it's pathetic they couldn't take this one small step.

Friday, August 11, 2017

#TXLEGE: Schaefer attempts to end rural carve out in Annexation bill; House declines....


"So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. 7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!"
2 Chronicles 15:6-7

Well, he tried.

During today's house floor debate on the annexation bill, Matt Schaefer offered an amendment (Note: Amendment #2) that would have made the bill apply to all 254 counties.

It was shot down 58-78.

Here's the damage:
RV# 111 — Unofficial Totals58 Yeas, 78 Nays, 1 Present, not voting
Yeas - Anderson, C.; Anderson, R.; Bell; Biedermann; Bohac; Burkett; Burns; Cain; Canales; Cosper; Cyrier; Dean; Elkins; Faircloth; Fallon; Frank; Frullo; Gooden; Guerra; Hefner; Holland; Isaac; Kacal; Keough; King, P.; Klick; Krause; Kuempel; Landgraf; Lang; Lozano; Metcalf; Meyer; Miller; Muñoz; Murphy; Paddie; Phillips; Pickett; Price; Raney; Rinaldi; Roberts; Sanford; Schaefer; Schofield; Schubert; Shaheen; Stephenson; Stickland; Swanson; Thompson, E.; Tinderholt; Uresti; White; Wilson; Wray; Zedler
Nays - Allen; Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Arévalo; Ashby; Bailes; Bernal; Blanco; Bonnen, D.; Bonnen, G.; Burrows; Button; Capriglione; Clardy; Coleman; Collier; Cook; Cortez; Craddick; Dale; Darby; Davis, S.; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Farrar; Flynn; Geren; Gervin-Hawkins; Giddings; Goldman; Gonzales; González; Gutierrez; Hernandez; Herrero; Hinojosa; Howard; Huberty; Hunter; Israel; Johnson, E.; King, T.; Koop; Larson; Longoria; Martinez; Minjarez; Moody; Morrison; Murr; Nevárez; Oliveira; Oliverson; Ortega; Parker; Paul; Perez; Phelan; Reynolds; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Rose; Sheffield; Shine; Simmons; Springer; Stucky; Thierry; Thompson, S.; Turner; VanDeaver; Villalba; Vo; Walle; Workman; Zerwas
Present, not voting - Mr. Speaker(C)
Absent, Excused - Johnson, J.; Lambert; Leach; Neave; Smithee; Wu
Absent - Dukes; Dutton; Guillen; King, K.; Laubenberg; Lucio; Raymond
Note that most of the rural R's (eg. Cecil Bell, Scott Copser, Lance Gooden, Chris Paddie and Four Price) voted for the Schaefer amendment.  That should tell you how this plays in the rural areas.  Unfortunately, it looks like a whole bunch of squish suburban R's took one for the team (lookin' at you Giovanni) took one for the team to kill the amendment.

Bottom Line: As a resident of Travis County, this bill helps us no matter what, but it sucks for the rural folks.

#TXLEGE: Meet the Constituent from whom Joe Straus is hiding....


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

We first met Columba Wilson when we testified on the same witness panel during a Senate education committee hearing this past regular session.  She has an autistic grandson and, as such, supports school choice for special needs students.  But, beyond realizing we were on the same side of the issue, we didn't talk much.

We had a chance to have a longer talk this afternoon and her story is incredible.

During 2015 and 2016, her grandson was physically abused and repeatedly locked in a tiny room by personnel at a Bexar county ISD; given this experience, it's obvious why she supports expanded choice for special needs students.

It gets better: During Columba's efforts at the Capitol these past two sessions, numerous legislative staffers have told her that she needs to meet with her own state representative to address her issue.  She's been trying for ages to do just that.  And, as a resident of house district 121, her state representative is...Joe Straus.

So, not only did Joe Straus refuse to meet with the Lt. Governor for nine months, but he's also refusing to meet with his own constituents who have a personal stake in issues currently before the legislature.

It's an incredible story that combines the abusive self dealing of the socialized education bureaucracy with the mendacity of Joe Straus.

We chatted with Columba this afternoon (and will post a more detailed version of her story below):



Highlights:

  • Note: We said "her son" in the video, but it's actually her grandson over whom she has custody.
  • "They had him locked up in a storage room."
    • 5x10
  • "The speaker of the house is my state representative."
  • She's been trying to meet with Straus for four years.
  • "I just never got any answers."
  • "As my state representative, I don't have any place to go but him."
  • School districts waste all sorts of money on attorney's fees that could be used to pay for special needs ESA's.
Columba Wilson's story in her own words:




This is a picture of the room where her grandson was kept:


Thursday, August 10, 2017

#TXLEGE: How house leadership attempts to kill pro-life bills....


"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6

This is a very revealing exchange between Stickland and Straus; we were actually in the gallery when it happened and we're glad he pulled the video:



Highlights:

  • Byron Cook's committee was meeting about an unrelated bill.
    • "Could we ask him to come up front, for the benefit of the public?!?"
    • "Mr. Stickland, that question is not in order."
  • HB 14 has been sitting in limbo between state affairs and calendars for two weeks.
    • "The paperwork has not made it to the calendars committee."
  • "What can the members do to make Chairman Cook get the paperwork to the calendars committee?!?"
  • "Are you aware that, on average, it takes about a day and a half to get paperwork from one committee that meets in this building to another committee that meets in this building.
    • "Mr. Speaker, do you think that's acceptable?!?"
  • "Is there any procedural move that we can do to get Chairman Cook, of state affairs, to act on this bill and do his duty?!?"
    • "Mr. Stickland, I would advise you to speak to the chairman."
  • "Mr. Speaker, what do we do when the chairman makes it very clear he does not want to work with us?!?"
  • "Mr. Speaker, is there any procedural move that we could remove a chairman?!?"
    • "No."
  • "Mr Speaker, is a committee chairman removable at will by the speaker at any point?!?"
    • "Not by this speaker, no."
  • "Do the rules permit you to do it if you so choose, Mr. Speaker?!?"
    • "Mr. Stickland, I think we've had enough of this conversation."
  • "Did you appoint Chairman cook to chairman of state affairs?!?"
    • "I think clearly the answer is yes."

#TXLEGE: House leadership caves three times today....


"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;"
Romans 5:3

[Note: Today's floor session can be viewed here; Hunter's remarks are at the 43 minute mark.]
  • Cave #1 - Hunter pulls the property tax gag rule.

    As we discussed yesterday, the Calendars committee had posted a rule for Saturday's floor debate on property tax reform that would have barred any amendments on the bill.  The freedom caucus and the grassroots justifiably went BONKERS.  This morning, Hunter pulled the rule.

    "As chair of calendars, there will be no motion for that calendar rule."

    They didn't have 76 votes; we've heard conflicting reports about why that was the case, but multiple sources have suggested that the Democrats recognized that for the minority party to assent to this precedent was a move that could come back to bite them in future sessions.
  • Cave #2 - Tan Parker sets GOP caucus meeting.



    Even if certain (predictable) members are trying to weasel out of attending, there's week to make sure they show up.



  • Cave #3 - DNR bill now moving.

    Confession: We thought this was dead, buuut....



    • After TMA tried to weasel out of the deal, Abbott's staff got involved.
    • Bill passed Byron's Cook's committee this afternoon.
    • Floor debate could come as early as Saturday.
      • Note: We're guessing sunday; there's no way they put this on the same calendar as the property tax reform bill.
Bottom Line: Deadlines are a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#atxcouncil: Adler proposes GIGANTIC tax hike (vaguely assures someone else will cut taxes)....


"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass."
Psalm 37:7

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!?
Austin will consider a maximum tax rate of 46.5 cents per $100 of property value — a 14.4 percent revenue increase that could trigger an election — to facilitate a possible tax swap with the Austin school district.

....

Such a swap would involve the city raising its taxes, the school district lowering its taxes, and the city taking over paying for some school district functions. The goal would be to keep more dollars locally, and to send less money in school district taxes back to the state to help fund schools in property-poor areas.

....

If approved, the tax swap would be full of complications. The city would have to persuade residents to approve a tax increase when they wouldn’t see immediately see the decrease on the school district side. Six other school districts include parts of Austin’s city limits, and it’s unclear whether residents in those areas would see a benefit or just a higher bill. The city would have to find a way to balance the deal for senior and disabled residents, whose school district taxes are frozen.
And therein lies the greatest rub of all:  This proposal, at least as it's currently structured, doesn't have an enforcement mechanism.  Austin ISD is under no obligation to cut its portion of the tax bill.  Essentially, Mayor Adler is saying "trust me."

[Note: This lack of an enforcement mechanism is very similar to what's wrong with the Texas house's current "school finance" proposal.]

Then, of course, there's the fact that it's pretty much impossible for this to not be a net tax hike for city residents who don't live in Austin ISD; that might not be a dealbreaker for this author, but it doesn't take a genius to see how that creates a political nightmare.

The biggest shame is that there might be some merit in the underlying concept.  There's something to be said for getting the property tax bill away from a body subject to recapture.  But, to be done properly, any tax swap of this nature would have to be vetted for unintended consequences by a team of lawyers.  And, to be done properly, that process would take months.  Unfortunately, we don't have months.  We have seven weeks.  The city is legally required to adopt a budget by October 1 and that simply isn't enough time to vet this proposal with the amount of care it needs.

[Note: This is very similar to the challenges with some of the tax swap proposals under consideration in the legislature.]

Bottom Line: Not in its current enforcement mechanism free form, and certainly not on the current compressed timetable.

-----

What Troxclair said:



She also put out a press release with similar sentiments:

Ellen Troxclair

Austin City Council Member
For Immediate Release
Contact: 512.978.2108


Troxclair "will be first to sign" Petition Opposing City Tax Hike
 
AUSTIN, TX – Today, Council Member Ellen Troxclair opposed Mayor Steve Adler's proposal to set the maximum tax rate at a staggering 14.4% above the effective tax rate, or 46.51 cents per $100.  State law currently allows voters to protest a tax increase above 8%, called the "rollback rate".  While the city has adopted increases of nearly 8% in 8 of the last 11 years, the city has never exceeded this threshold.

Council debate centered around a possible tax swap with Austin Independent School District, a proposal to reduce some of the funds recaptured by the state and allocated to less property rich school districts across the state.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair said, “Although this idea might have some merit, if this was something the City wanted to pursue, we could absolutely do it without turning back to the taxpayers and asking them for more than 8% than what they paid last year.”

Troxclair continued, “It is so upsetting to me to know there so many people in the city who are struggling with property taxes and affordability, and the City decides they can afford an 8% tax increase year after year. I was opposed to the 8%, and now we’re even exceeding that rate. It’s outrageous.  I will be absolutely the first person to sign a petition for a rollback election, and I will lead the opposition in opposing a 14% tax increase.”

Council passed the item on a 6-4 vote, with Councilmembers Garza, Houston, Flannigan and Troxclair voting "no".

The tax rate will not be final until budget adoption in September.  Upon that vote, citizens can sign a petition to call an election on the tax rate for March of 2018.  Council will hear citizens thoughts on the proposed budget during the public hearing on August 17th at 4pm.
###

#TXLEGE: Watered down Property tax reform proceeds (with a twist)....


"Who would form a god or mold an image
That profits him nothing?"
Isaiah 44:10

The Good News: SB 1, the automatic property tax rollback election bill, will be considered by the full house on Saturday (but note that they're still waiting three days before holding the vote).

The Bad News: The bill was substantially weakened in committee from the version that passed out of the Senate; specifically the following changes were made:
  • The taxing entity gets to choose the date of the rollback election instead of having the election automatically scheduled for a uniform November election date.
  • The automatic rollback trigger has been raised from 4% to 6%.
  • There is a much bigger exemption for small taxing entities (which screws the rural folks).
The Worse News: During today's calendars committee hearing, Ken King added a rule for floor debate would prohibit any member from offering amendments on either second and third reading.

Bottom Line: This bill is headed to a conference committee that won't have a lot of time.  As it currently stands, it will not be sufficient for the Senate.  We have no idea whether house leadership is willing to risk a second special session by playing hardball on this issue.

-----

Note: Audio of today's calendars committee meeting....

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#TXLEGE: Taylor correctly characterizes Huberty's "school finance" spend-a-thon....


"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

From the Senate's press conference this morning:
"The time for tinkering around the edges and making minor changes is over," [Larry]Taylor said, adding that a one-time influx of money to the system is a "political fix" and "not a long-term solution." He also likened the House's plan to attempting to drive a broken-down car "knowing you will be facing expensive repairs and ultimately be driving it into the ground."
BINGO.

At times throughout this debate, Dan Huberty has attempted to argue that his 'school finance' bill either reforms education or provides property tax relief.

As we explained two weeks ago to Huberty's committee, both of those notions are false; Huberty's bill is nothing but a spending bill.

In theory, you could write a school finance bill that's also an education reform bill [Note: Larry Taylor did just that during the regular session] and/or a property tax relief bill.  But the bill Dan Huberty is currently touting does neither of those things.  Huberty's bill merely throws good money after bad into the socialized education status quo.

Bottom Line: Kudos to Larry Taylor for telling the truth about the house's ongoing 'school finance' smokescreen....

Monday, August 7, 2017

UT politburo invents arbitrary "Sexual assault" policy to please big donor; predictably, gets sued....


"They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves."
Psalm 94:4

We can't even....
According to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Austin, Fenves on April 12 overruled a university hearing officer who determined that there had been no assault. In a letter informing the student of his suspension, Fenves asserted that the woman was highly intoxicated and “someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent to sexual activity because they are incapacitated.”

Fenves, citing testimony by a witness who attended the formal, added, “While parties may disagree as to whether intoxication and incapacitation are synonymous, certainly, someone described as: ‘incredibly intoxicated, no longer coherent, at a point where she needed to be taken home away from the event because she couldn’t form sentences,’ meets the definition of incapacitated.”

The lawsuit accuses Fenves of coming up with his own standard for incapacitation and ignoring the university’s standard, which defines it as “a state of being that prevents an individual from having the capacity to give consent” and “could result from the use of drugs or alcohol.”

The lawsuit also says Fenves has a possible conflict of interest because the father of the woman is a university donor who gave a significant sum within a month of her allegations. And, while the school’s investigation was ongoing, the lawsuit says the university brought on the father to be an adviser at the school.

Brian Roark, the attorney who filed the suit, said in a statement to the American-Statesman that if Fenves’ decision stands, it would subject “thousands of innocent students to being kicked out of school for engaging in behavior that is both legal and within the acceptable norm for many, if not most, Americans of college age, whether they are students or not.”
 Some thoughts:
  • No one is hurt more by specious accusations of "sexual assault" than real rape victims.
  • That this was all done at the behest of a major donor is SUCH a UT thing to do.
Bottom Line: Please let this be the scandal that finally brings the reign of the criminals running this institution to an end....

#TXLEGE: Abbott's mouth writes a big check....


"I have held My peace a long time,
I have been still and restrained Myself.
Now I will cry like a woman in labor,
I will pant and gasp at once."
Isaiah 42:14

Well this is...an awfully bold statement:
I can tell you that in 10 days we are going to have a Texas that I consider to be far better, more conservative, that will continue the Texas model for conservative governance,” Abbott told the American-Statesman on Friday evening.

....

We are on a trajectory where you’re going to see between now and a week from now — next Friday — a lot of things move very fast. We’ve got to match them up between the House and the Senate, but you’re going to see a lot of items move over the next seven days.
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#TXLEGE: If we're ever gonna get rid of Joe Straus....


"Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing,
And those who strive with you shall perish."
Isaiah 41:11

...then yesterday's Nay vote on Byron Cook's amendment to restore the rainy day fund raid give you a hint at the type of coalition it might take:


So that's 67.

Also, FWIW, Jeff Leach, Tony Tinderholt, and Scott Sanford weren't on the floor but could have been reasonably expected to vote no.

So that's 70.

Furthermore, Lance Gooden later made a journal statement against the amendment.

So that's 71.

Obviously, you need 76, but that 71 is potentially a start.

Also, FWIW, based on the 2017 Mark Jones index, Trent Ashby is Republican #76:



Friday, August 4, 2017

#TXLEGE: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from today's house floor session....


"Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing."
Isaiah 40:15

[Note: We also ran into Mayor Adler in the house gallery and had a very...frank...exchange of ideas about the City of Austin budget; we're not sure which category to place it into.]

Interesting day today.  Probably doesn't mean much.  But some thoughts:

The Good:
  • Cook Amendment Fails - HB 25 is an obnoxious piece of legislation that attempts to use sick children as human shields to expand Medicaid.  In addition to being outside the bounds of the special session call [Note: Why didn't anyone call a point of order on this?!?], as originally filed the bill would have paid for the medicaid expansion by raiding the rainy day fund.  Yesterday, during second reading, Matt Krause had an amendment adopted that shifted to a different funding source.

    Today, on third reading, Byron Cook offered an amendment to restore the rainy day fund raid [Note: Third reading amendments are considered a big deal in the legislature].  Proponents of the bill attempted to argue raiding the rainy day fund would make the Governor more likely to add the bill to the special session call.  Dennis Bonnen attempted to talk sense by pointing out there was no way the Governor would support raiding the rainy day fun.

    Sarah Davis attempted to accept Cook's amendment.  Jonathan Stickland LOUDLY objected and asked for a record vote.  Cook's amendment ultimately failed 67-67.
  • HB 22 fails on verification vote - This bill would extend the life of a school funding programs.  It was widely assumed the bill would pass comfortably.  But a number of the bill supporters received the benefit of ghost voting and weren't actually on the floor when the bill passed.  Some astute observer asked for a verification vote where the bill failed.

    Obviously, they'll bring this bill back next week but it was still amusing to see leadership get egg on their face.
The Bad:
  • Huberty's TERRIBLE school finance bill passed with minimal opposition - During his layout for the bill, Huberty attempted to call this an olive branch, but it's actually a middle finger.  Furthermore, he claimed the bill would "reform education" when it literally does the exact opposite.  This bill does nothing but pour money into the status quo.

    Furthermore, Huberty attempted to claim school districts don't waste money and that the bill would allow school districts could reduce taxes "if the so choose."

    The bill ultimately passed 130-12 without amendment, with all present Freedom caucus members (joined by Morgan Meyer and Scott Sanford) voting no.
Which brings us to THE UGLY:
  • Todd Hunter created amendment rules that made any amendment non-germane - According to Capitol soucrces, the rules adopted for this bill meant that any amendment that "added language" to the bill wasn't germane.  This was in direct contradiction to what Hunter said on the House floor on Wednesday about the process.  No members, including but not limited to Freedom Caucus, were allowed to place amendments on the bill.

    Still don't understand why anyone didn't point this out during floor debate....

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#TROXROX over #atxcouncil's budget hypocrisy....


"For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."
Romans 10:3

You GO Ellen:



Highlights:

  • Robin Hood: "A principle the city of Austin has pretty much endorsed in our own policies...in everything from subsidized housing to living wage policies to et cetera...then all of a sudden, when the city of Austin is on the other side of the equation and the state is identify the city of Austin as a rich school district and a rich city, and asking for all of those resources to get redistributed to the rest of the state, then all of a sudden it's not such an attractive principle."
  • Not defending current school finance system.
    • Note: We doubt Ellen's been following the issue close enough to comment, but we will furthermore add the current so-called school finance 'reform' plan the legislature is discussing does NOTHING to reduce property taxes.
  • The city "has no problem in applying that same [Robin Hood] ideology to a lot of other policies that we put in place."
  • "The same way that you feel right now is the same way that a lot of my constituents feel; they feel that the City of Austin has identified them as so rich that they have extra money to give back to the city."

#TXLEGE: Darby's 'abolish school taxes' constitutional amendment...out of committee?!? :D


"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

"Replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden."
Republican Party of Texas, Legislative Priority #5

Confession: We didn't see this one coming....



At least one note of caution is in order: the enabling statute is still pending in committee (also, they haven't posted the committee substitute language).

Furthermore, let's be clear about something else: If the voters were to approve this constitutional amendment, it would set up an incredibly high states debate over education funding next session that can go any number of ways...good or bad.

But it's a start.

Also, automatic rollbacks with NOVEMBER elections still needs to get done during the current special session; but this constitutional amendment is absolutely a worthwhile piece of further reform.

Bottom Line:


via GIPHY

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#TXLEGE: Bonnen holds productive hearing on alternatives to property taxes....


"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

"replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden."
Republican Party of Texas, Legislative priority #5

[Note: The hearing can be viewed here; our first testimony can be viewed very early, the second is about two and a half hours in.]

Something happened this afternoon that, in a few years, we might look back on as a significant turning point in the discussion of taxes in this state: For the first time ever, the House offered attractive alternatives to the Senate's property tax proposals.

The House ways and means committee heard seven bills this afternoon, of particular note are these five:
  • HB 82         Darby | et al.
    Relating to the abolition of school district maintenance and operations ad valorem taxes.
  • HB 285        Murr                 
    Relating to elimination of certain property taxes for school district maintenance and operations and providing public education funding through an increase in the state sales and use tax rate.
  • HB 301        Krause               
    Relating to the substitution of a local sales and use tax for property taxes imposed by certain local governments; authorizing the imposition of a tax.
  • HB 358        White                
    Relating to supporting public education funding through an increase in the state sales and use tax rate and requiring a reduction in school district maintenance and operation ad valorem taxes; making an appropriation; increasing the rate of a tax.
  • HJR 21        Darby | et al.       
    Proposing a constitutional amendment abolishing school district maintenance and operations ad valorem taxes.
All of the bills would, in some form, substitute sales taxes for some portion of property taxes.

We testified "ON" two of the bills (we also signed up in favor of the Darby constitutional amendment/bill, but didn't stick around to testify).  We LOVE this concept, we just haven't had a chance to read any of these bills.  And that's our only hesitation in the context of the current special session.

Any bill that would authorize this sort of tax swap would, by definition, be big and complicated.  And any bill that would be this big, and this complicated, would need to be thoroughly vetted for unintended consequences by a team of lawyers.  Also, anything this big and complicated would produce a lot of opinions over how it could be most effectively implemented.  Thus, an open process is necessary for widespread buy-in.  Therefore, we feel that it's a better idea to do an interim charge on this topic before taking action in 2019.

Furthermore, as just one example of the type of thorny political debates this sort of tax swap would create: Broadening the base on the sales tax means you're going to be paying sales taxes on your grocery bill.

But assuming both the substantive and the political issues could be resolved in a way that produces a reasonable amount of buy in from the general public, we could absolutely get behind this sort of effort.

[Note: None of this is to suggest that anything short of automatic rollback elections is sufficient for the current special session.  That still needs to happen.  While we commend the House for finally offering an attractive alternative, the Senate are the ones who've been working on this issue for months and it's their plan that needs to pass for the current special session to be judged a success on this issue.]

Bottom Line: The road to making this sort of tax swap work will be long and winding.  Any journey down a long and winding road needs to be taken very carefully.  But all journeys, now matter how long and winding, begin with a first step and we commend Dennis Bonnen for taking it today.

#atxcouncil: #TROXROX CodeNEXT, property taxes...and taxpayer funded lobbying!


"in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him."
Ephesians 3:12

We attended an event last night where Ellen Troxclair spoke last night about several topics related to both council and the current special session:

Part 1:



Highlights:
  • Council hasn't kept their word on homestead exemption.
  • City is hitting the full 8% increase every year.
  • In time of unprecedented growth, city manager still having to use recession tactics on budget.
  • Broke with TML on property taxes.
  • It's not the state's responsibility to protect local officials.
  • Leffingwell testified in favor of the Senate property tax bill.
  • Hopefully CodeNEXT will bring increased supply online.
  • Lots of people in her district would LOVE to live in Central Austin, but council policies make it impossible for them to afford to live there.
  • Austin spends $1 million per year on lobbyists at the capitol.
Part 2 (Note: There's about a one minute gap between part 1 and part 2):


Highlights:
  • Explains the evils of taxpayer funded lobbying.
  • Nothing much happening on implementing the corridor component of the 2016 transportation bond.
  • No final candidates on city manager.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#TXLEGE: House attempts spending spree (that will probably be unsuccessful)....


"Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction,
But he who regards a rebuke will be honored."
Proverbs 13:18

An optimist can argue that this was the first time during the special session that there was any organized floor pushback on anything and that the author of the second bill gutted his own bill via amendment.  A pessimist can argue that both bills passed overwhelmingly.  A realist can argue that the Senate approach is the only one that's going to get to the governor's desk and thus everything the house did today was pointless.

Today, the house voted out two bills related to teacher retirement; we'll address the bills in order.

  • HB 20 (Ashby): This bill would raid the rainy day fund to make an allegedly "one time" payment to the teacher retirement system.

    During his layout of the bill, Trent Ashby repeatedly tried to assure the members that there would never be another raid of the rainy day fund to prop up this program ever again; if you believe Ashby, we have mineral rights in South Texas that we would love to sell you.

    That being said, this was the first time there was actual pushback from members on any bill during the special session.  Bill Zedler had a good exchange with Ashby pointing out that the fund is financially unsustainable.  Matt Krause discussed the inappropriateness of using the rainy day fund for this purpose.

    Mike Schofield attempted to offer an amendment to draw from general revenue instead of the rainy day fund.  Straus went full dictator and ruled the amendment non-germane.  Schofield ultimately caved, but gave a long speech about how "he was only voting for the bill to get it to a conference committee."

    Speaking against the bill, Jonathan Stickland explained: "I think voting against this bill is voting against political maneuvering."

    Ultimately, the Freedom caucus (minus Jeff Leach) and Jim Murphy were the only one who voted no.


  • HB 80 (Darby): You know it's a bad sign when the bill author begins his layout by stating "the fund is not currently actuarially sound"...but that's how floor debate over this bill began.

    This bill was originally intended to give a cost of living increase to retired teachers.  Due to questions raised by members prior to the bill reaching the floor, Drew Darby offered an amendment to give "pre-permission" to do a cost of living adjustment "if the fund ever gets actuarially sound."  Essentially, the bill does nothing unless the fund sees freakishly good investment returns.

    Yvonne Davis called Darby's bill "disingenuous" and voted no.
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That being said, we got an idea this afternoon for how we could find a fairly substantial chunk of change; it wouldn't fix all problems with the fund, but it would buy some time.

The teacher retirement fund has a gigantic office complex, on prime real estate, two blocks from the Capitol.  If the state were to sell the property for mixed use development, we suspect they could net at least $1 billion.  Whatever personnel are actually needed to manage the fund could be relocated to less expensive land somewhere in East Austin.



Bonus points that this plan would help add supply to address Austin's structural housing shortage:

Monday, July 31, 2017

#TXLEGE: Abbott enters the biggest week of his political career....


"For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,"
1 Thessalonians 1:9

Update: This has got be considered a good sign....



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ORIGINAL POST:

We had originally intended to write a piece this morning detailing frustrations we've had with the Governor over the past few days...when we learned late yesterday that the property tax bill had been voted out of committee.  According to several capitol sources, getting that bill out of committee (where it died during the regular session) was a direct result of the Governor's behind the scenes actions.  Soo...we'll continue to wait and see.

Over the past 6 months, this website's opinion of the Governor has been...an emotional roller coaster ride.  On the one hand, there are the lousy UT regents and the fact that he went to the mat for film subsidies during crunch time of the budget negotiations.  On the other hand, calling the special session and setting out an ambitious agenda are tangible action that shouldn't be belittled.

Right now, there are two competing narratives about Abbott, one of which will likely emerge as dominant by the end of the special session:

  • Greg Abbott is a Governor who sometimes takes too long to directly engage in major fights, but is usually pretty good once he does so.

    --OR--
  • Greg Abbott gives lip service to grassroots priorities, but always seems to find more time for lousy UT regents and film subsides, while he says inflammatory things on Fox News to distract from that reality.
Another common theme that has emerged in talking with sources is that Greg Abbott has a certain theory about how to most effectively navigate the legislature.  The short version is that it involves a lot more carrot than stick.  To put it mildly, this website has a different view of the landscape.  We believe house leadership is incorrigibly wicked and that the only way to get anything out of them is to publicly bludgeon them into submission.  But...the property tax bill is out of committee...so we'll give the Governor a little more time to do things his way.

Bottom Line: Abbott's special session priorities need to see significant floor action in the house this week.  If they do, he will be able to claim a legitimate victory on both agenda and tactics.  If they don't, the questions will become very uncomfortable.

Friday, July 28, 2017

#TXLEGE: Rinaldi's tree bill interrogation of Phelan....


"This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John."
Acts 18:25

Still don't know why they didn't amend the real tree bill onto this one, but this is brutal nevertheless:



Highlights:

  • "Is this the same version of this bill that we passed out of the House during the regular session?!?"
    • Phelan: "Identical, yes sir."
  • "And this bill was ultimately vetoed by the Governor, correct?!?"
    • Phelan: "Correct."
  • "Is this the bill that, in conversation, the Governor has referred to as the wrong tree bill?!?"
  • "Did the Governor say that this bill 'gives the imprimatur of state law to the municipal micromanagement of private property which should be abolished altogether'?!?
    • Phelan: "He might have said that, yes sir."

#TXLEGE: If the current #SpecialSesion were a Football game

Note to self: Get picture from DKR with Capitol in background this season.
"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:14

Long story short: We're at about the five minute mark of the second quarter; we have a lead, but we just gave up a touchdown and, furthermore, we got smoked pretty badly in the process.

First Quarter:

Second Quarter:

  • Early: Punts back and forth during early House committee hearings.

    Middle: House leadership takes over ball deep in their own territory.  Attempts trick play with that tree bill stunt on Thursday.  Unfortunately, the defense (ie. the Freedom caucus) was caught badly out of position and House leadership scored a touchdown.

    This isn't the end of the world, but it's a potential momentum shift if left unaddressed.

    The way to address it is for the Freedom caucus to not rely on other members and to have undeniably germane amendments ready to go on every bill that comes to the floor.

    [Note: The fact that the bill in question was HB 7 was how we came up with this metaphor in the first place.]
Halftime: This Tuesday's edition of the Jim and Michael show.

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Random Thought: That being said, it'd sure be nice if this guy got onto the field....




Thursday, July 27, 2017

#TXLEGE: Straus mendacious as ever and NEVER going to change (without Gubernatorial intervention).....


"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,"
Hebrews 12:1

[UPDATE: According to Empower Texans, Workman withdrew the amendment voluntarily so Straus didn't have to rule it non-germane.  That's a separate hot mess (as is the fact that NO Freedom Caucus member advanced their own amendment to force the issue), but it's not lawlessness in the way we'd originally reported.  We've updated the post accordingly.]

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While we've had our suspicions about what would happen, to this point in the special session we've been content to let the process play out.  We knew the time would come when events would paint a clear picture.  That happened today.

HB 7 (Phelan) is a pathetic impersonation of the tree bill that Governor Abbott has requested from the legislature.  It was heard alongside the real tree bill in the urban affairs committee on Tuesday [Note: We signed in against but did not testify].  The difference between Phelan's bill and the real tree bill is that Phelan's was voted out while the real tree bill languishes in committee.

But here's the real kicker: This was a reprise of a bill that was vetoed by the Governor in June; as the Governor explained:
Senate Bill 744 appears to be a compromise bill that imposes a very minor restriction on some municipal tree ordinances. But in doing so, it gives the imprimatur of state law to the municipal micromanagement of private property, which should be abolished altogether. This bill was well-intentioned, but by the end of the legislative process it actually ended up doing more to protect cities than it did to protect the rights of property owners.
Obviously, the disrespect was deliberate.

But hope had yet to be lost; Paul Workman was planning to use a floor amendment to attach the real tree bill to Phelan's shell bill.

Then Workman inexplicably withdrew his amendment.  And the House members did nothing.  And NO Freedom Caucus member offered their own amendment to force the issue.  Ultimately, 132 members (including five from the Freedom caucus) voted to pass Phelan's bill without any amendments.
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So, where do we go from here?!?

Honestly...it's up to Abbott.  It's his agenda that's on the line.  And he's the one who was explicitly dissed today.

If Abbott gets actively involved, plenty of time remains to go 20 for 20.

If Abbott doesn't get actively involved, according to Capitol sources, Straus only intends to move: the less important pro-life items (note: looks good on a campaign mailer), annexation (note: being from San Antonio, Straus personally needs this), something related to school finance (note: he'll push for the Huberty bill then settle for an interim study) and maternal mortality.

Absent Abbott's involvement, everything else is dead in the House.

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Governor Greg Abbott: (512) 463-2000