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?!?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Texas' Local Governments: Pensions bad; DEBT worse....


"The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7

[Update 12/6/2016 -- TPPF has updated figures for local debt this morning: "the total debt owed by all local governmental entities rose to $342.1 billion in FY 2016, an increase from $338.4 billion owed in the previous fiscal year."]

Via the Trib this morning, a report on the very real challenges big cities in Texas will face related to pensions in the coming years; most important takeaway:
Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s.
Obviously, that's not good, but consider that number against total local government debt across Texas:
As of fiscal 2015, local debt service outstanding, or the amount required to fully repay the principal and interest owed, totaled $338.4 billion.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added in both quotes.]
We admit it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison to compare every political subdivision in the state to four cities, but it still gives you a picture of the relative importance of the two issues.

Bottom Line: If local governments would simply stop racking up debt, they could afford their pensions.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Revelation 18:1-8 -- COMMERCIAL Babylon (Part 1)


The Fall of Babylon the Great
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.
Revelation 18:1-8

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  August 2, 2015:

Commercial Babylon, Part 1 - Dr. Danny Forshee - August 2, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.


Outline:

  1. Angelic Appearance and Announcement (v. 1)
  2. Babylon's Demise and Description (vv. 2-3)
    - Dwelling place for demonic spirits.
    - All the rotten eggs in one basket
  3. God's Invitation and Warning (v. 4)
    - Get out of there
  4. God's FIERCE Judgement of Babylon (vv. 5-8)
    - Jeremiah 50:39
    - God has remembered her iniquity.
    - Eventually, you will get caught.
Highlights:
  • Some of the most difficult prophetic literature in all of scripture.
  • God ALWAYS resists the proud and arrogant.
  • Commercial/Political entity in collaboration with the antichrist.
  • God's grace and love are made all the more powerful by His truth and justice.
  • People said "God Himself" could not sink the Titanic.
  • God WILL Judge and God WILL Win....do you know Him?!?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Schwertner leads on tuition (again)!!!


"The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender."
Proverbs 22:7

FANTASTIC:
The unintended consequences of tuition deregulation continue to shortchange Texas students. By providing public universities the flexibility to set their own rates, the Texas Legislature has essentially given them a perverse incentive to increase tuition and fees as the simplest means of expanding their own operating budgets.

In fall 2003, a resident undergraduate attending class full-time paid $1,934 per semester in tuition and fees. A decade later, the same student owed an average of $3,951 per semester.

Since 2003, tuition and fees at Texas public universities have more than doubled, and designated tuition (the portion of tuition set directly by the universities) has increased an astounding 222 percent. Are we really expected to believe that the value of an undergraduate degree is worth twice what it was only a decade ago?

As students struggle to repay the exorbitant cost of higher education, they have less money to purchase a home, start a small business or otherwise contribute to the Texas economy. A survey conducted earlier this year by the consulting firm Accenture found that 46 percent of recent U.S. college graduates consider themselves underemployed, working jobs that do not require a college education.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey also revealed a significant disparity between what students had expected to earn and their actual starting salary: while only 18 percent of graduating students believed they would earn less than $25,000 a year, over 40 percent of recent graduates indicated they made that amount or less.

This broken system is leaving an entire generation of students mired in debt and frustrated by a lack of opportunity while supplying universities with extravagant budgets to fund special projects and ever-expanding administrations.

The Texas Legislature must reassess how we manage our public universities and consider whether the deregulation policies enacted over a decade ago still make sense for our students. Texas simply cannot maintain a strong economy without also maintaining a strong workforce, and we cannot maintain a strong workforce without affordable access to higher education.
Read the whole thing here.