Thursday, August 17, 2017

#TXLEGE: Bettencourt's speech after the house killed property tax reform....


"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

From Tuesday night:



Highlights:
  • "Some days the Texas capitol does not recognize the obvious, and that's what's happened today."
  • "Today's action by the Texas house leaves us with a bill, to quote the house ways and means chairman, that provides no property tax relief whatsoever."
  • "SB 1...was a bill that belongs to the taxpayers of Texas."
  • The house refused to appoint a conference committee.
  • "The ability to amend legislation didn't occur in the Texas house."
  • Texans "are being taxed out of their homes and their businesses."
  • "We are not going to accept the take it or leave it proposal from the house."

#atxcouncil Approves $122 MILLION for office building....


"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.?
Proverbs 21:20

We signed up to testify in opposition to items 16 - 18 from today's council meeting:
16.

17.

18.
The theory behind the project is that one of the problems with the permitting process is that simply getting the permits requires one to traipse all over town.  Thus, putting all the offices in one physical location will "streamline the process" (Note: Why can't this be done online?!?) (Note II: A nine-figure fiscal note is a strange definition of "streamlining.")

We had to leave before they got to this item, but if we'd testified we would have hit the following five points:
  • Cost - First things first, dadgum $122 MILLION is a LOT of money.  For an office building.  According to the city's documents, they want to build 264,000 square feet of office space.

    $122,500,000/264,000 square feet = $464.02 per square foot.

    According to any number of commercial real estate sites we checked, the average rate to rent existing office  space in Austin ranges from $23.00 to $50.74 depending on the neighborhood; new construction maxes out at $150 per square foot..

    Two weeks ago, Mayor Adler told this author to bring it to his attention when we think the city is spending money irresponsibly; this is a pretty good place to start.
  • Financing Mechanism - As item #18 makes clear, they're financing this through "certificates of obligation."  The beautiful thing about certificates of obligations for governmental entities is that they don't require voter approval.  While c of o's can have a legitimate cash management function, to use them for this sort of capital expenditure of a horrible abuse of the process.

    On a semi-related note, we fully intended to bring this one up with the legislature whenever we get new leadership in the Texas House.
  • Housing Costs - The city claims that the C of O's will be repaid by "development fees" instead of property tax revenue.  Of course, in order to raise the revenue needed to cover $122 million in obligations, you would need to shoot the development fees through the roof.  And that means every single piece of new construction from here to eternity will have to include those fees in the final cost to the end user.

    Translation: Higher housing costs.
  • Highland Mall Redevelopment - There's widespread agreement across the political spectrum that mixed use development is the best function of the highland mall tract.  Creating a five-acre city office complex on that property will mean the surrounding area is DEAD after 6pm.  Dead zones like that are kryptonite for vibrant neighborhoods.
  • Wrong Mindset - Everyone agrees that the permitting process is too bureaucratic.  But instead of eliminating bureaucracy...we're just going to build the bureaucrats a beautiful new building.  Does anyone actually believe that's going to "streamline" anything?!?

    Again, on a semi-related note, this is why Konni Burton's permitting bill is so desperately needed.
Following passage of the item, Mayor Adler released the following video to Facebook:

So he's arguing that he saved taxpayers $45 million...but the project is still going to cost $122 million?!?

Bottom Line: Never, ever, ever forget that, once you get past the headlines, politics at every level in the state of Texas is mostly about good ol' boys putting together shady real estate deals...and someone's getting paid on this one.

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.