Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#TXLEGE: Miles NO-SHOWS first public event post Sexual Predator revelations

"Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord,
And their works are in the dark;
They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”
Isaiah 29:15

[Note: The livestream for the event, with Even Smith's brief comment, can be seen here.]

For the past couple months, Senator Borris Miles has lived under a cloud following multiple credible reports in the national media about predatory sexual behavior in the Texas Legislature.  Miles had been scheduled to appear this afternoon at a Texas Tribune event in Houston.  It had been widely assumed that, whatever lame defense Senator Miles might make, he would make it at this afternoon's event.

Which makes the following development very interesting:

During his event introduction, Evan Smith simply said "Senator Miles' office informed us last night that he would not be able to attend today's event."

Really?!?  Obviously, it's not a secret how this website feels about the reports surrounding Senator Miles.  But, if he's ever willing to present it, we'd love to hear his side of the story.

Finally, it'll be interesting to see how other Senators react to today's development.  To date, not a single Senator has called for Borris Miles to resign.  But no-showing an event where you were widely expected to address (however belatedly) the horrible stories that have been floating around about you for months is a pretty significant progression.

Bottom Line: At some point, you have to explain your actions, and if you fail to show up at an event were you were widely expected to do so, you can't be surprised when people assume the worst.

#TXLEGE: Why is Dan Patrick's political consultant ALSO consulting for Dan Huberty?!?

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit."
Psalm 32:2

We said our piece last week about the utter, total, and complete failure that led to Dan Huberty facing a cakewalk re-election; but now that Huberty's officially running unopposed, we noticed a very interesting nugget in the press coverage:
“Game over,” Huberty consultant Allen Blakemore said in a Friday statement.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Sssay what...Allen Blakemore is Dan Huberty's consultant?!?

For those who might not be aware, Allen Blakemore's most famous client is Lt. Governor Patrick.  Blakemore is often seen as a direct proxy for the Lt. Governor.   Given this background, for Blakemore to be consulting for Dan Huberty is, at best, deeply unsettling.

To review: Last Session, Dan Patrick's top two priorities were property tax reform and school choice.  Dan Huberty maliciously killed the latter while he was a key player in watering down the former into meaninglessness.  At the same time, Huberty was pushing a dishonest school finance scheme that the Lt. Governor (correctly) characterized as a "Ponzi scheme."

Yet they have the same political consultant.

Bottom Line: For a political consultant who is often perceived to be the Lt. Governor's direct proxy to also be the political consultant for a house committee chairman who took a lead role in killing or watering down the Lt. Governor's top two priorities last session is...strange.

Monday, January 22, 2018

#TXLEGE: Charlie Geren's new sexual harassment policy is just as pathetic as we predicted....

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

Game, set, match for the Texas Observer:
After reports surfaced in November that women have for years endured sexual harassment in the Texas Capitol, leaders in the House promised, among other actions, to provide sexual harassment training to legislators and their staff. We’ve got the training, and it’s a 40-minute video that seems unlikely to change the toxic atmosphere at the statehouse any time soon.

The training is a video of a PowerPoint presentation with a voiceover that also covers discrimination based on race, age, disability and genetics. Just 18 minutes of the video is dedicated to sexual harassment, including boilerplate examples of harassment, reasons to prevent it, laws against sexual harassment, the House’s policy and reporting mechanisms.

The whole video has a feeling of, ‘Let’s quick minimize liability on every front, watch this video,’” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who researches sex discrimination and workplace equality.

Recent research shows that if training isn’t properly designed, it’s unlikely to lead to more reporting of harassment, much less reduce instances of inappropriate behavior. According to Eden King, a psychology professor at Rice University, there’s some evidence that training programs have better outcomes when they are longer than four hours, include face-to-face interaction, involve interactive learning, are conducted by outside experts and actively involve leaders in the workplace. The House video meets none of those criteria.

Instead of being paired with an interactive, in-person training as recommended by researchers, the video is available on the House’s internal server and is probably watched alone. Viewers are required to take a 10-question, multiple-choice test. To pass, you must answer at least seven questions correctly. If you fail, you can simply retake the test without having to watch the video a second time.


When institutions face allegations of sexual harassment, Grossman said, the instinct is often to establish programs that reduce legal liability. The law tends to reward somewhat “superficial or simplistic” measures, she said, such as merely implementing a policy or conducting training. A 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that most of the harassment training conducted in the last 30 years has failed to reduce harassment and has instead been used to meet legal requirements. “Ineffective training can be unhelpful or even counterproductive,” the report noted.


Research shows that to create an environment of equality, institutions must go beyond training. One crucial aspect is to ensure that victims feel they have a safe way to report complaints.
The Observer piece is well-worth reading in full, but it closes with a recommendation that this website fully endorses:
Grossman said that to truly address harassment, the Legislature should conduct a comprehensive audit and study its work environment.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Yes, please do, and while you're conducting said audit, please keep in mind what we said a couple weeks ago about the toxic culture at the Capitol not being limited to sex.

Bottom Line: It's appalling.  But it's also not surprising.  What would you expect from a guy who's been engaged in a sexual relationship with a lobbyist for most of the past decade?!?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now that we're a "finalist," will the public ever get to see the "Austin's" Amazon bid?!?

"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light."
Luke 8:17

A new development:
Austin and Dallas are among 20 North American metropolitan areas being considered for a second headquarters for Amazon, the online retail giant announced Thursday morning.

The cities were among several in Texas that had been competing to lure the company. Competition has been fierce, since Amazon says it plans to invest $5 billion in its new headquarters and create "as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs" in the city it picks.

Thursday's list eliminates two major Texas cities — Houston and El Paso — that were also vying for the spot. Despite initial plans to do so, San Antonio did not submit a bid to host the company's second headquarters. City officials told Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in October that "blindly giving away the farm isn't our style."


In a brief statement Thursday morning, Austin Mayor Steve Adler recognized that "mobility and affordability" are among the city's greatest challenges in attracting businesses like Amazon, and said the city council is focused on addressing those two concerns.

Cities across North America have offered major economic incentives in attempts to lure Amazon, including tax breaks and land. And while some cities have publicly offered up their proposals to the tech giant — New Jersey, for example, has pledged up to $7 billion in tax incentives, and Chicago officials offered Amazon credits totaling about $1.32 billion in income taxes — Texas cities have stayed quieter about what they're willing to put on the table.

Austin city officials said in October that no local financial incentives were included in their bid for the headquarters. Adler said Thursday he still has not heard any talk about offering local incentives.

Mike Berman, spokesman for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, called the bid a "great success" but wouldn't offer details on any specific sites that the city proposed.
Cool...you guys want to share any of that information with the public?!?  Or are we just supposed to glean tidbits here and there from open records requests?!?

Bottom Line: We remain neutral on this project pending the receipt of more information.  That being said, the fact that we've been discussing an Amazon bid for three months without more information being forthcoming is very frustrating.  At a minimum, the optics surrounding this secretive process continue to stink....

Friday, January 19, 2018

#TXLEGE: Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton are BOTH solid conservatives (and their supporters need to stop acting like Children)

"Folly is set in great dignity,
While the rich sit in a lowly place."
Ecclesiastes 10:6

Sometimes, it pays to stay out of a race.

With the release of campaign finance reports, a juvenile slap fight has broken out between supporters of Phillip Huffines and supporters of Angela Paxton over obscure campaign contributions; neither of the contributions in question should remotely concern anyone.

First, Angela Paxton: On her most recent campaign finance report, Angela Paxton reported $17,500 in contributions from liberal Republican former state senator John Carona.  That seems bad, until you remember that DON Huffines beat Carona four years ago.  Clearly, Carona is still miffed over his loss to Don Huffines, and is using Angela Paxton as a mechanism to get back at the Huffines family.

[Note: It's also worth pointing out that Carona served in the Senate with KEN Paxton; Senate collegiality being what it is, it's also not surprising to see a former Senator donating to the wife of a former Senator with whom he served.]

As for Phillip Huffines: In 2006, he made two donations, totaling $1500, to Dallas Democrat Helen Giddings.  This against the backdrop of two decades as a political donor that have seen him give hundreds of thousands to explicitly conservative causes.  We assume Huffines had a business interest in Giddings' district and, well, it's a little hard to stomach watching people belatedly complain about Republican candidates making donations to Democrats to protect their business interests when nobody seemed to have a problem with this guy doing it.

For those who are interested, they can check out all of Philip Huffines' campaign contributions since 2000 below:

Bottom Line: No matter what happens, Senate District 8 is going to be represented by someone with whom the average Conservative Texan agrees at least 98% of the time.  Neither of the respective political donations about which we've learned changes that fact. People need perspective.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TXLEGE: School Choice Advocates headed for YET ANOTHER EPIC Election Season FAIL

Dan Huberty (Center), Gary VanDeaver (Right), and Ken King (Left);
of those three, King is the only one who *might* face a competitive primary. 
"For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."
2 Peter 1:9

Last week, one of our most trusted sources expressed the following sentiment: "The [school choice] lobby has to be the dumbest, most incompetent, group at the Capitol.  Here you have the public school lobby actively encouraging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, and it's being left to individual county party executive committees to smoke this behavior out.  What gives?!?"

That was a good start, but there are several other reasons why we think the effort remains doomed for the foreseeable future.


Democrats voting in Republican primaries:

The Texas Monitor summarizes a recent event from Hood County:
A school superintendent running as a Republican for the Texas House was slapped with a “no confidence” vote by the local party this week.

Granbury ISD Superintendent James Largent called the move “shameful.”

Hood County GOP Chairman Jim Logan said Largent had it coming.

“To our knowledge, he has never participated in local or state Republican Party activities. He has said he disagrees with most of the party platform, and openly disparages Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” Logan told The Texas Monitor in an interview.

As a result, the executive committee of the local party issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in Largent in the House District 60 race.

State Rep. Mike Lang is running for re-election in HD 60 against Largent and Gregory Risse in the March 6 primary.


Largent, 52, does not hide his politics. Opining regularly on the Granbury ISD website, the superintendent’s commentaries echo increasingly shrill attacks from the state’s “Big Ed” establishment.

In a post titled “Conservative Leadership,” the superintendent defends forced collection of union dues, assails school choice legislation and attacks state Republicans, ridiculing Abbott and Patrick.

Slamming the so-called “bathroom bill” last session, Largent wrote that Patrick “does not understand the transgender issue.”

Hood County residents question whether the superintendent understands the boundaries of professional ethics.

Plumping for an $85 million school bond, Largent emailed teachers urging them to call parents to support the debt package at the polls. Some instructors balked at the political gambit, and public-records requests into Largent’s official correspondence are pending with the district.

Meantime, Hood County Democrats, including the wife of a GISD School Board member, are actively pushing their support for Largent.

“He’ll attend Democratic Party meetings and has declined our invitations,” Logan noted.
That's all well and good.  We're glad that the Hood County Republican party stepped up to the plate.  But this is going on all over the state, and it shouldn't be left up to local activists to play an ad hoc game of whack-a-mole to smoke this out.

Empower Texans and the Texas Monitor have done good work exposing this nonsense, but they're general interest publications.  They can only do so much.  Where are the single issue education reform groups?!?

Imagine an alternative scenario: Every time one of these socialized education front groups attempts to get Democrats voting in the Republican primary, the conservative "education reformers" are on it in the local community.  Then they get the message out in each individual community on their own.  Nobody waits for general interest websites that might or might not ultimately pick up the story.

It's too soon to know the ultimate number, but there will be house seats left on the table this cycle because the socialized education bureaucracy gets democrats to vote in the Republican primary.  And a big reason why will be because the single-issue education reform groups failed to take care of business.  General interest websites can only do so much.


Huberty coming back:

Between his disgraceful personal conduct and the lies he's told related to school finance, there are few house members less deserving of another term than Dan Huberty.

Unfortunately, look at his opponent's latest campaign finance report:

It's bad enough for Huberty to have a cakewalk re-election campaign from an ethics perspective and a school finance/property taxes perspective.

But lets remember what Dan Huberty did last session on school choice:

So, you have a committee chairman who disses you in the most humiliatingly public way possible?!?  And you represent an issue where donors have recently started to open checkbooks.  Yet the only person opposing the committee chairman in question has $440.00 cash on hand.

The school choice advocacy community's failure to make an example out of Dan Huberty means their issue will be just as dead on arrival in the house next session (even with a new speaker) as it was last session (they'll just be nicer about it).


VanDeaver running unopposed:

But beyond Huberty's cake-walk, check out what's happening to the guy long known to be house leadership's next public ed chair after Huberty cashes out:

In other words, in addition to failing to unseat the biggest obstacle to the legislative change you're seeking, you're also leaving in place the guy being groomed to be his successor.


Answer this question: If you're a Republican house member, and you're personally on the fence about school choice, how would YOU interpret Huberty and VanDeaver coming back without much of a fight?!?


Inadequate Effort focused in the wrong direction:

Beyond the shortcomings of any particular election cycle (after election cycle, after election cycle, after election cycle), the biggest problem school choice advocates face is that their efforts both fall short and aren't focused where they need to be.

School choice advocates love to talk about how school choice is "the civil rights issue of our time."  But their actions don't match their rhetoric.  Where's the urgency?!?

Newsflash: The actual civil rights movement didn't limit themselves to a passive political strategy.  While politics were certainly a component of their strategy, it was only a component.   The actual civil rights movement held boycotts (hint, hint).  The actual civil rights movement held sit-ins.  The actual civil rights movement did a heck of a lot more than simply holding rallies at the state capitol every other year.

Then there's the fact that, while school choice advocates can sometimes "drive a conversation" in Austin, they rarely seem to do much in the districts of recalcitrant members.

Last session, we suggested to a well known school choice advocate that, if you really wanted to pass a school choice bill next session, you need to start holding sit-ins at high school football games in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans.  Force the issue at Churches and coffee shops across the relevant districts.  We got a blank stare in response.

[Note: Having had several additional months to ponder the strategy, we actually wouldn't start with sit-ins at football games.  We'd start with sit-ins at rural school board meetings and threaten to take them to Football games as the next step.  But, either way, if this is truly "the civil rights issue of our time" you need to be holding sit-ins in the districts of recalcitrant rural Republicans and that ain't happening.]


Bottom Line: Absent a gigantic course correction, school choice will remain dead on arrival in the Texas house for the foreseeable future, and the issue's most passionate advocates have no one but themselves to blame.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#TXLEGE: Abbott's property tax related political theater includes FOUR (recent) tax-hikers

Left: Villalba, Geren and Button today in Ft. Worth;
Right: Jim Murphy yesterday in Houston

"He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence."
Psalm 101:7

[UPDATE: It gets better, apparently Bonnen voted for HB 486 in committee.]

[UPDATE II: Apparently, Giovanni and Linda Koop were there as well, which just further illustrates our point.]

Question: What do Angie Chen Button, Charlie Geren, Jim Murphy, and Jason Villalba have in common?!?

Did they?!?
  • a) Vote to grease the skids for property tax hikes last session?!?
  • b) Appear at one of Governor Abbott's recent press conferences promoting his property tax plan.

    -- OR --
  • c) BOTH.
The answer, unfortunately, is "C."

Over the past 2 days, Governor Abbott has held press conferences in both Houston and Ft. Worth extolling the benefits of his new property tax proposal.  In fairness to Abbott (as we explained yesterday) it's a good proposal.  Unfortunately, many members of the cast of characters with whom Abbott has chosen to surround himself leaves us...less than sanguine about the proposal's chances of passage.

As a particlarly flagrant example of why, consider HB 486 from last session:

Next, consider which Republicans voted for HB 486 and cross reference them against attendance at Abbott's press conferences:

Bottom Line: If you want us to believe that you're committed to reigning in the property tax system, you probably shouldn't surround yourself with four legislators who voted to grease the skids for further property tax increases as recently as last May.