Monday, February 20, 2017

The most important step #TXLEGE can take to rein in ever-increasing housing costs....


"They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
Isaiah 65:21

We finally got around to reading the paper on land-use restrictions that TPPF released last year; the whole thing is worth a gander, but the following recommendation is, by far, the single most important step the legislature can take to rein in housing costs:
Strengthen statutory protections against regulatory takings in Sec. 2007.003, Government Code.

Although the Texas Constitution prohibits state and local governments from taking private property without adequate compensation, the judiciary has all but limited the provision’s application to physical intrusions and/or seizures. In the instance of a regulatory taking—that is when the government restricts an owner’s right to use his land, thereby markedly reducing its value—Texans have to rely on the Private Real Property Protection Act of 1995 for a remedy. Lawmakers, however, exempted municipalities from the Act’s reach, enabling them to impose heavy-handed restrictions on a parcel’s land use without ever having to worry about the costs inflicted on the owner and/ or prospective seller. By closing that exemption, and by applying the compensation requirement to municipal regulations that diminish a property’s value by at least 20 percent, the Texas Legislature would force local governments to confront and assess the real consequences of their land use and zoning policies. Local governments would still have the power to zone for compatible uses, but the worst manifestations of that power. In other words, those policies that have the gravest impact on housing development would be discouraged.
Read the whole thing here.

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It's worth pointing out that, before he became Lt. Governor, then-Senator Dan Patrick filed bills related to this subject (that died without a hearing)...which means an advocate exists in leadership.  Craig Estes filed a similar bill (that met a similar fate) last session.  We've heard rumors there will be a reprisal this session, but so far that appears to be more talk than action.

Notes on Texas' various Corporate Welfare programs....


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

Over the weekend, we read TPPF's recently released Policymaker's Guide to Corporate Welfare; we offer some notes on things we found interesting, but we recommend reading the whole thing yourself.

TPPF divides corporate welfare into three areas:
  • State Subsidies -- Direct payments from taxpayers.
  • Local Tax "Incentives" -- Special interest carve outs that lead to higher rates for everyone else.
  • Regulatory favoritism -- According to TPPF: "the government enacts a series of regulations that essentially locks in a guaranteed revenue stream for existing players, all while discouraging new players from entering the market."
TPPF makes a number of policy recommendations; all move the ball in the right direction, though we will note some areas where they don't go far enough:
  • Eliminate the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • Repeal all of the "Event Trust Funds."
  • Eliminate the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.
  • Eliminate the Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program.
  • Eliminate the Texas Emissions Reduction Program.
  • Eliminate the mandatory Texas' Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • Abolish the Skills Development Fund.
  • Require "Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones" to publish their financial information on a the local governmental entity in questions public website.
    • Note I: This doesn't go nearly far enough; Tax Increment Financing and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones should be abolished in their entirety.
    • Note II: The "Transportation" bond Austin passed last year is full of this crap.
  • Allow Chapter 312 "property tax abatements" to expire in 2019!!!
    • Note: Did you know that all local property tax abatements will go away in two years if the legislature does nothing?!?  Neither did we!!!  The Senate needs to grow a pair and kill this nonsense without a hearing.
  • Eliminate Chapter 313 "abatements" from school districts.
    • Note: Apparently, the office of the comptroller was recently given authority to deny this foolishness as well; we'll be keeping an eye on Glenn Hegar's performance in this area.
  • Require local governments to make their "economic development" policies consistent and transparent.
    • Note: No, we should just abolish this drivel.
  • Eliminate the ability of political subdivisions to impose section 4A and 4B sales taxes.
  • Discontinue public funding for "Economic Development Corporations."
  • Eliminate Hotel Occupancy Taxes.
  • Deregulate Title Insurance.
  • Deregulate medical "scope of practice" requirements.
  • Eliminate Texas' "three tier" system of alcohol regulations.
    • Note: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is a public policy abomination that should be abolished in it's entirety.
  • Review every occupational license category in Texas and eliminate all but those that demonstrate the highest level of need to protect health and safety.
    • Note: Licensing is theft.  There is no 'health and safety' for any category of license.  That's always been true, but it's even truer in a world that includes Yelp!
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Update on Constitutional Carry in the #TXLEGE


"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me."
Nehemiah 4:18

Jonathan Stickland gives the following update on HB 375:



Highlights:

  • Referred to Homeland Security committee
  • Phil King is the committee chair; has promised a hearing.
  • Bill now needs a hearing.
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Chairman Phil King: (512) 463-0738

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One further update: In working on this post, we discovered something ASTONISHING.  No member of the Texas Senate has even filed a constitutional carry bill.  Unfortunately, duly noted....

Friday, February 17, 2017

Testimony on #ATXCouncil's "Capitol View Corridor" Nonsense....


"But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!"
2 Chronicles 15:7

We said our piece about Council's expansion of the "Capitol View Corridor" yesterday, but nevertheless as a glutton for punishment we did show up to testify on the subject:



Highlights:

  • "I don't know if dangerous is the right word, but it's a bit unsettling."
  • "This entire process is really dangerous and will just make gentrification on the east side that much worse."
    • Author's Note: Yes, we're aware of the irony of expressing reservations about using the word dangerous then going ahead and using the word in the next sentence.
  • Demand going up, supply staying the same, means higher prices; higher prices mean more gentrification.
  •  "As far as the equity concerns go, personally I think we should be repealing Capitol View Corridor restrictions on the west side."
  • "I understand if we're going to be doing it on the west side we should be doing it on the east side as well...well, let's stop doing it on the west side."
  • "If you want to have housing you can see the Capitol from on the east side, the way this is going, I think that housing is going to be really, really, really expensive."
  • We use the word dangerous a third time.

#TROXROX: Troxclair assembles #ATXCouncil coalition to kill asinine city contract!!!


"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich."
Proverbs 13:4

We put in an appearance at yesterday's council meeting to discuss the absurd Capitol View Corridor restrictions.  We'll address it in a separate post, but the fix appears to be in on that issue as much as it's always been.  That being said, while we were at city hall yesterday we did get to observe a pretty awesome silver lining courtesy of Ellen Troxclair!!!

Check out item #29 from yesterday's agenda:


This was a contract for trash disposal services at various city owned properties (eg. City Hall).  It would have replaced a recently expired contract to provide similar services...but at more than twice the cost.  The reason why is that the new contract would have created trash collection routes only for city properties, whereas the previous contract included the city properties as one stop on preexisting residential/commercial trash collection routes.

But here's where things get interesting: In addition to the fiscal absurdity of the proposed contract, there were also legitimate environmental concerns; the short version is that several other council members were worried about toxic waste getting dumped in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

And Ellen Troxclair did the legwork to put together the fiscal/environmental coalition that led council to unanimously reject the contract.

Bottom Line: For all of the headline generating controversy yesterday, we were (once again) impressed with Ellen Troxclair's diligence that will ultimately save taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Ora Houston, Gentrification, and Unintended Consequences....


"Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you."
Numbers 14:42

This is such a depressingly terrible idea:
A proposal from Austin City Council Member Ora Houston could dramatically affect the redevelopment of East Austin by imposing new height restrictions on future projects to protect certain views of the state Capitol. 
Houston’s proposal for five new Capitol view corridors comes as developers increasingly eye East Austin for high-rise development, fueling fears about further change in this once-working class part of town.

“This whole conversation, this whole wanting to have some visual history of the relationship between black East Austin and the Capitol started back in 2015,” said Houston, who was inspired by the fight over the once-proposed One Two East development, which would have built a pair of apartment towers on the east side of Interstate I-35 at 12th Street. Those towers, she said, would have been a “vertical barrier, just like some people see I-35 as a horizontal barrier.”

People in different parts of East Austin need the same kind of views of our Capitol as other people have,” she added.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
No council member, "people in different parts of East Austin" (like everyone citywide) need 150,000 units of new housing to reverse the trend of ever increasing housing costs we've seen over the past decade; it's economics 101, as supply goes up, price goes down.

'Views of the Capitol' are irrelevant to this discussion.

Still, it's interesting to see who's supportive:
Her bid is co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter.
It's not difficult to understand why Tovo, Pool, and Alter [sidenote: Where's Ann Kitchen?!?] support this: This is a typical Austin Neighborhood Council initiative to use any excuse in the book to maintain high housing prices for existing homeowners.  Likewise, Adler's motivation is easy to discern: complicated regulations on the front end grease the skids for shady subsidies on the back end.  Still, Houston's support for this bullsh...nonsense...is disappointing.

Here's the thing: The reason the East Side is gentrifying at such a rapid pace is because the affluent NIMBY's at the Austin Neighborhoods Council have made it impossible to build anything in Central Austin.  That impossibility pushes housing demand out to the East Side, which prices existing residents out of their homes.  Once again, Economics 101: if demand goes up, and supply is artificially held constant, price goes up.

This isn't rocket surgery.

Bottom Line: Council member Houston's proposal can only make gentrification on the east side worse...and it's straight up depressing that someone who should know better fails to grasp this obvious point.

Why Governor FoxNews is "Fighting" the NFL....


"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
Colossians 2:8

Following our Tuesday post about Governor Abbott's hypocrisy related to the NFL vs. the University of Texas (where he actually has jurisdiction), we received the following text message:


Bingo.

The privacy act (SB 6) is dead in the House.  Abbott knows this.  Thus it's a safe issue to generate headlines in national conservative media, which creates a favorable perception heading into his re-election campaign...which is why we've taken to calling him Governor FoxNews in the first place.

Unless Abbott threatens to call a special session over this issue (which he won't), nothing else he says matters.

Prediction: By the time this legislative session is over, the privacy act will be a textbook example of failure theater in the Texas Legislature.

Bottom Line: Smoke, mirrors, and theater....