Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dallas Morning News Concern Trolls Ted Cruz....

"For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue."
Psalm 5:9

We will confess to having mixed feelings about the Health Care bill currently winding its way through the United States Senate.  On the one hand, it's obviously a betrayal of any number of GOP campaign promises.  On the other hand, GOP betrayal of campaign promises is nothing new, and we think a case can be made for banking what's currently on the table then coming back and asking for more in the next round.

But either way, today's Dallas Morning News article about Ted Cruz allegedly threatening his 'new reputation as a deal maker' in the U.S. Senate is cute.

Check out the shrieking headline:
Ted Cruz's opposition to Senate health care bill will test whether he's deal maker or still just agitator
Followed by:
WASHINGTON — The agitator. The obstructionist. The bomb-thrower.

All of those depictions of Sen. Ted Cruz were ripe to be dusted off Thursday as the Texan joined three other Republican senators in jeopardizing the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan by announcing opposition to the bill just hours after it was released.


Much has been made in recent months about Cruz’s emergence as a team player, a truly foreign role for the one-time presidential contender who staked his outsider credentials on bucking GOP leadership with theatrics like trying to shut down the government.

His latest gambit — which stands in stark contrast to the approach of his fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn — puts that charm offensive to the test.
The article then goes on to detail of the "oh so important" relationships Cruz could be jeopardizing;  in paragraph 21, they finally get around to mentioning that Cruz has a very tangible path to yes.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Stickland fires early shot across Cornyn's bow....

"The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."
Psalm 34:16

This is wildly premature, but nevertheless awesome:

Bottom Line: A lot can change in two years, but if we get to this point in 2019 and Cornyn and Stickland both continue their current trajectories, this could be a very interesting race....

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Austin ISD just passed a budget for HOW MUCH...and they want to issue bonds for HOW MUCH?!?

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

Shot (and keep in mind this is, at least, the third year in a row they've passed the biggest budget in their history):
The $1.46 billion dollar budget was approved much quicker than anticipated with the discussion only lasting about 10 minutes. The vote went 7-0-2, with two board members abstained.
As for the bond proposal, the board approved 40 different bond projects totaling $990 million (*)....
While we're on the subject, however, there's one point we need to re-emphasize: This is exactly what you should expect to happen when three of the trustees run unopposed.

But still....

Bottom Line: We'll see you in November....

* - Keep in mind, that's only principal and doesn't include interest or cost overruns.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#TXLEGE: Notes on the Mark Jones Index....

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20

Mark Jones is a political science professor at Rice University.  Every odd numbered year, he produces a non partisan index that ranks the members of the Texas Legislature from left to right.  Jones' index is worth investing some time into because, while the methodology is more complicated than some other groups, it's the most comprehensive analysis of individual members of the Texas Legislature.

Texas House Results:

Note: Click on the image to enlarge.

Texas Senate Results:

In no particular order, some personal observations:
  • Freedom caucus (predictably) solidify their position as the 12 most conservative House members.
  • Kel Seliger is the most liberal Republican in the Texas Senate; over half of the Republican caucus in the House is more liberal than Seliger.
  • In the House, we would give every member from Rodney Anderson up a passing grade on voting record; that's 31 members out of a 95 member Republican caucus.
  • However, even among those 31 members with passing grades on their voting record, there are three (Drew Springer, Dennis Bonnen, and Larry Phillips) who receive automatic F's based on other shady actions; so 28 members out of a 95 member House Republican caucus ultimately receive passing grades.
  • 26 Republican House members have more liberal voting records than Byron Cook; chew on that one for a second.
  • Jason Isaac moves significantly to the right from 2015 to 2017; this is consistent with a number of observations we made during the session.
  • In the other direction, Jodie Laubenberg, James White, Giovanni Capriglione, Tan Parker, and Phil King continued their multi-session leftward drift.
  • Speaking of leftward drift, Dan Flynn is now in the bottom half of House Republicans.
  • Rafael Anchia and Chris Turner both rank significantly to the left of the average Democrat in the House...are they sure those are the two guys they want to make spokespeople for their entire party?!?
  • On the Senate side, all Republicans elected in the past 7 years are significantly to the right of the person they replaced.
    • Update: We suppose that technically Paul Bettencourt is about even with the guy he replaced in SD-7.
  • Charles Perry and Larry Taylor both have voting records to the left of Bob Nichols; while people shouldn't overreact, this is a trend worth monitoring.
  • Joan Huffman as the second most liberal Senate Republican might be flying a little too close to the sun for her own good in her re-elect cycle.
Read the full report (including a detailed discussion of methodology) for the House here and the Senate here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#TXLEGE: Scalise shooting changes Constitutional Carry calculation for #SpecialSession

"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

Regarding constitutional carry, one reality has guided our thinking since the end of the regular session: According to several private conversations with knowledgeable sources, we are at least four votes short in the Texas Senate.  Thus, this issue has struck us as one that just requires one more election cycle before it becomes a realistic possibility.  During a special session that already features more issues than we will have the bandwidth to cover, it has struck us as prudent to save this one for 2019.

But last week's Congressional shooting changed our thinking.

Since then, we can't escape the following conclusion: In a world where politically motivated assassination attempts are a contingency for which we must prepare, what if removing barriers to entry for lawful firearms ownership prevents (or even minimizes) one tragedy?!?

It would be hard to live with ourself if we didn't try.

We want to make one thing clear: During the special session, this author will almost certainly not have time to work this issue.  Thus, even if it does get added to the call, don't expect to hear a lot about it here.  But this issue has a corps of very committed activists and the truth is that our personal participation is not necessary.

Furthermore, from a political perspective, there's also the fact that during a special session you only need 16 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.  Thus Kel Seliger, Bob Nichols, Joan Huffman, and Craig Estes would be free to vote no.  While holding the other 16 Senate Republicans isn't necessarily a slam dunk, it does strike this website as a realistic possibility.

Bottom Line: Even if this author has personal bandwidth limitations, this issue really should get added to the call.

Unpacking the "War on Cities" Talking Point

"Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate;"
Proverbs 22:22

Since Governor Abbott called the special session, we've noticed a recurring talking point.

From Mayor Adler:
“I admit to being a little dumbfounded when I heard what sounded to me like a call for a war against cities; a fight against individual liberties exposed at the ballot box,” Adler said. “Instead of looking at a future … the governor’s special call looks to the past.”
From Greg Casar:
"So many of the things listed here are attacks on Austin, not just in the traditional Austin-bashing sense, but on cities generally because we pose a threat in the long term,"
From the Texas Municipal League:
“The list of proposed topics for a special session represents an all-out assault on the ability of Texas voters to decide what’s best for their communities and their neighborhoods.
We've also heard similar rhetoric from local officials in (at least) Houston and Dallas.

This is worth considering in full, because the argument contains a kernel of truth wrapped in hysterical misdirection.  The short version is that these politicians (and their taxpayer funded lobbyists) have everything backwards.  While nobody denies the potential long term political implications of the special session agenda, that's a secondary concern compared to the fact that municpal governments across this state have been abusing their citizens can the Texas legislature has jurisdiction to reign them in.

Consider the following:

These two are worth considering on their own, because they're obvious macroeconomic storms gathering on the medium term horizon.  Left unchecked, local government debt and the property tax system will strangle the state's economy.  Does anyone (Note: Who isn't paid to say otherwise) seriously think reigning in these practices is a bad thing?!?

The abuses continue:
  • In Austin, the permitting process for residential construction is so complicated and convoluted that council created a pay to play fast lane for the big developers...which they subsequently loaded up with a new round of complicated conditions.
  • Even in allegedly conservative cities like Frisco and Plano, property tax collections have been growing faster than the ability of homeowners to pay them.
  • Also in Austin, while issues like the tree ordinance and short term rentals (note: that's going to be a germane amendment on some bill during the special) get the most attention, the anti-property rights orientation of the municipal government has become so pervasive that the code department is performing SWAT-team raids.
Again...does anyone seriously think reigning in these practices is a bad thing?!?

But you want to talk politics?!?  Fine, let's talk politics.  We've been saying since 2013 that, while punks like Battleground Texas would never turn Texas blue, the unchecked growth of government at the local level is the one thing that could swing the state over the long run.

While a certain amount of boutique progressivism has crept in over the past decade, historically the backbone of the left-wing coalition has been people who collect checks from the government (ie. bureaucrats, lobbyists, and welfare recipients).  Naturally, it follows that if there are fewer people collecting checks from the government, there will be fewer constituencies for left wing policies.  There's a reason why we compared Governor Abbott's special session agenda to Scott Walker's in Wisconsin.

Put differently: This website is primarily interested in lowering our personal cost of living, but if we can simultaneously make it easier to win elections 10 years down the line, that's certainly a bonus we'll take.

Bottom Line: It's time to reign in abusive municipal governments for the sake of reigning in abusive municipal governments; if doing so also makes it easier to win elections in a decade, so much the better.

Monday, June 19, 2017

#TXLEGE: Trib poll illustrates degree to which status quo crowd is playing with FIRE.....

"People shall be brought down,
Each man shall be humbled,
And the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled."

Isaiah 5:15

The Texas Tribune conducted a poll in early June, immediately after the regular session of the legislature ended.  Last week, they released unsurprising results related to national stories and elected officials.  But today's results related to issues should serve as a wake up call to anyone who wants to preserve the status quo:
    • Newsflash to Joe Straus, Mayor Adler, Rafael Anchia, the Democrats, and the Austin Lobby: THIS IS A POPULAR BILL.
    • Requiring local police to work with Immigration authorities is approved by 58% of voters and only disapproved by you really want to take the 33% side in a statewide campaign?!?
    • Also, bear in mind that this poll was conducted at peak hysteria related to the Rinaldi/Poncho incident...which means that, even with full race card guns blazing, every aspect of this law polls at 53% or higher.
  • 77% of voters support statewide limits on property taxes.
  • 63% OF DEMOCRATS support statewide limits on property taxes.
    • NEWSFLASH MAYOR ADLER (you too Sylvester Turner).
  • While they didn't poll support/opposition to the bathroom bill (Note: That's revealing in and of itself), we find it notable that 35% OF DEMOCRATS list it as an important priority.
Furthermore, as it relates to the special session, allow us to one more observation that should be obvious: Because Greg Abbott is Greg Abbott, you know he polled every single issue on the call; that he's pushing forward with them should tell you everything you need to know about what his polling said.

Bottom Line: Woe unto politicians clinging to fantasies about where public opinion lies....