Friday, May 22, 2015

Gio and the Watered Down Gold Bill


"By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber."
2 Peter 2:3

[Author's Note: The 2013 version of the bill can be seen here; the 2015 version can be seen here.]

Longtime readers will remember that repatriating Texas' Gold was our top priority last session.  The bill died in committee.  Obviously, this was Gio's bill.

Thus it caught our attention when we noticed a similar bill had passed the House this session.  Something had changed.  For awhile, we were thinking that Gio had actually gotten something important in exchange for his support for Joe Straus.

Then we decided to read the bills.

In both versions of the bill, Section 2116.002 establishes the parameters of the Texas Bullion Depository.  Both versions place the agency under the Comptroller's office and enable political subdivisions to store their bullion in the depository.  Only the 2013 version of the bill (page 3), however, enables the depository to:
(2)provide the basis for a system for precious metals-denominated intergovernmental payments and settlements between and among:
  • (A)the agencies, political subdivisions, and instrumentalities of this state; and 
  • (B)persons making payments to, receiving payments from, or otherwise doing business with an agency, a political subdivision, or another instrumentality of this state in the exercise and discharge of a governmental function or responsibility of the political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality; 
(3)establish a process and mechanism by which the system described by Subdivision (2) is able to function in the event of a systemic dislocation in a national and international financial system, including systemic problems in liquidity, credit markets, or currency markets; and 
(4)provide a regulatory and administrative framework for the system described by Subdivision (2) to be made available to private persons.
In other words, where the 2013 version of the bill had teeth that would help re-establish sound money, the 2015 creates a new state agency that wouldn't accomplish anything.

On a similar note, Section 2116.028 of the 2013 version of the bill (page 20) fails to make it into the 2015 counterpart:
Sec.A2116.028. DEVELOPMENT OF DEPOSITORY SYSTEM AND PARTICIPATION. 
  • (a) The comptroller shall monitor the development of the depository-based system of payments and settlements and shall direct and encourage all funds and agencies of this state to use the system for intergovernmental payments and settlements to the extent prudent and practicable.  
  • (b) conditions of acceptance and liquidity of the depository system improve, the comptroller shall: 
    • (1)establish appropriate firm requirements for the use of the system for intergovernmental payments and settlements to the extent prudent and practicable; and 
    • (2)encourage the use of the system by private persons to make or receive payments to or from a state agency or fund.
Again, rendering the bill toothless.

Another interesting tidbit from the 2013 version (page 8) that fails to reappear in 2015 is Section 2116.008:
Sec.A2116.008. FULL FAITH AND CREDIT. The depository ’s obligation to deliver precious metals and transfer account balances to the order of a depository account holder under this chapter is backed by the full faith and credit of this state.
That being said, if you end up in litigation with the Texas Bullion Depository, at least the 2015 version (page 9) offers this reassurance in Section 2116.009:
(e)A suit authorized by this section must be brought in a district court of Travis County.
Because judges in Travis County have such FANTASTIC reputations....

BOTTOM LINE: The 2013 version of this bill had meaningful economic possibilities.  The only reason it's moved in 2015, however, is because it's been gutted.  Is anyone surprised?!?

Cook attempting to kill pro-life bill


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

EVERYTHING with Byron Cook requires pulling teeth:
The House Committee on State Affairs is about to kill Senate Bill 575 by Senator Larry Taylor.

One day remains for the House Committee to vote SB 575, the Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform Bill, on to the floor for full debate. The State Senate passed SB 575 two weeks ago by a vote of 21-10 with no weakening amendments, but the House Committee on State Affairs wants to take out a key provision and render the bill ineffective.

The House Committee on State Affairs has been sitting on the bill for two weeks, while YOU the taxpayer are subsidizing the abortion of others through your tax dollars and through your private insurance premiums. SB 575 would remove automatic coverage for abortion from health insurance plans as well as ensure that abortion is not covered in the state exchanges mandated by PPACA.

However, some of the committee members are trying to weaken the bill by taking out the provision that protects YOU, the insurance consumer, from subsidizing the abortion of others. THIS WOULD RENDER THE WHOLE BILL MEANINGLESS.

10 states protect private insurance consumers from participating in abortion coverage through their private benefit plans; 25 other states have excluded abortion coverage from the state exchanges, and 21 other states restrict coverage for abortion for governmental employees.
Read the whole thing here.

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Representative Byron Cook: (512) 463-0112

Thursday, May 21, 2015

No defenders for Mr. McRaven's Cover-up


"Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the Lord;
“Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord."
Jeremiah 23:24

Jon Cassidy's pulls no punches:
Last week, McRaven decided to defy the guidance of Attorney General Ken Paxton and three of his predecessors and block Hall from reading the Kroll papers, despite a prior board vote permitting it and Hall’s “inherent right of access” as a regent under state law, which Paxton cited. The disgrace for the entire UT community will only be compounded once a court issues a writ of mandamus compelling McRaven to turn over the documents.

There’s no defense for lawlessness, and there’s no defense for a cover-up, which is why nobody is defending McRaven and the UT board majority, which gave him tacit approval.

The board hasn’t spoken in its own defense. It could start by explaining why people who took part in the corruption of UT’s admissions program have any say in what the rest of us learn about it.

McRaven has offered just two explanations: 1) the circular reason that reopening the matter would reopen the matter, and 2) it would be working “at cross-purposes with our own litigation team” in an affirmative action case before the Supreme Court; that is, the facts contained in the Kroll papers would undermine the lies UT has already told the court.

UT’s actions are so utterly indefensible that all its attorneys can offer is procedural gibberish in defense: please, Mr. Paxton, ignore Hall, because his attorney can’t write a letter on his behalf for some reason we’re just now inventing.

....

Most telling, the institutional voices that have defended the disgraced president Bill Powers these past three years have been silent. None of the pro-Powers alumni are writing op-eds defending this obstructionism.

There’s nothing for them to say. That talking point about Hall being some agent of Rick Perry on a mission to destroy Powers? Perry and Powers are gone now.
Read the whole thing here.

Yesterday, this author (very briefly) spoke with Attorney General Paxton about this topic and he told us: "The law says what it says."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#TXLEGE set to pass $3 BILLION Higher Ed Slush Fund


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

"Tuition Revenue Bonds" are a boondoggle we addressed during last year's Attorney General race.  They create a 'university construction' fund that is ultimately backed by Texas taxpayers.  Naturally, our conservative Texas Legislature would reject such foolishness out of hand...right?!?

Sadly, that isn't the case.

HB 100 (Zerwas) would authorize $3 billion in TRB's.  It passed the Texas House overwhelmingly in early April.  Yesterday, the Texas Senate approved the measure 26-5.

Another insidious aspect of TRB's is that they are political pork for legislators.  Many of the project this time are in the district of Straus lieutenants.  As a source explained in March:
House Bill 100 is a doozy. It's basically earmarked pork at your expense. the way the state does higher ed buildings is via "tuition revenue bonds," where the state borrows money pledged against tuition with the idea that the debt service would be paid in future appropriations bills.... It's basically a bill full of congressional-style earmarks The specific projects are listed in the bill. The Legislature stripped the Coordinating Board of the ability to prioritize.
On the bright side, at least Charles Schwertner raised a stink over tuition deregulation during yesterday's debate.  Higher Ed. committee chairman Kel Seliger pledged to study the issue during the interim.  We'll see if Seliger keeps his word.

Par for the course for this session.

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The Trib has more here.

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Read the full bill below:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Amendment Tuesday: Shenanigans Late in Session


"and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
Ephesians 6:19

With less than two weeks till sine die, we've entered the most dangerous part of any legislative session.  With deadlines looming and the self-inflicted time crisis having squandered the bulk of the session, now is the time when things get sneaked in under cover of night.  Even if you can't stop something, the key is to raise a stink about it so that it at least occurs in public.

Tony McDonald (Empower Texans):



Highlights:
  • Conference committees rarely have formal meetings.
  • Texas open meetings act de facto doesn't apply to the legislature.
  • Bills are usually hashed out between the House and Senate bill authors.
    • "This is a REALLY dangerous process."
    • Lack of Transparency and tight deadlines.
  • Outside the bounds resolutions: Supposed to ask for permission but usually they ask for forgiveness and it's granted automatically.
  • Read conference reports during the last few days of the session.
    • This is one of the most useful things activists can do; no one has time to go through them all.
    • Dan Flynn tried to use this process last session to sneak thru an anti-Wallace Hall bill.
      • "Dan Flynn Should be censured and removed from the House."
  • You have to trust guy at the front mic to tell the truth.
    • Author's Note: Exactly.
  • You'd be surprised what qualifies as a typo on the last day of session.
  • Short notice periods on all this nonsense.
  • If you catch anything, TELL DAVID SIMPSON.
  • If you see something fishy during the last few days of the session, don't assume anyone else has found it.



Highlights:
  • Event tomorrow to "lean on calendars committee."
  • House killed Pastor protection bill.
  • Dan Patrick is the only reason we got Pastor protection bill thru Senate.
  • SB 531 (American Laws for American Courts) -- Needs to be heard on Senate Floor.



Highlights:
  • SB 2065 needs a House vote THIS WEEK.
  • "It's not done till it's done."
  • We knew the D's would chub if they got the opportunity.
  • Locate Tea Party leaders in Calendars committee members districts.
  • Joan Huffman says she'll move ALAC, but she hasn't done so and she has the votes.



Highlights:

  • Details likely tax relief plans: Likely to be something along the lines of Senate's approach to property taxes and House's approach to margins tax.
  • #2A: If you want to carry openly, and you don't want to be harasses constantly, contact your Senator.
  • The Governor ought to call a special session "on a number of things."

Mom's Demand Action, Texas: The Synchronized Testimony


"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 1:7

Yesterday, during the Texas Senate's State Affairs committee's hearing on the watered down licensed open carry bill, the individual members of Moms Demand Action delivered testimony that had clearly been written out by others before hand.  It could have been a drinking game.  See more below:



Highlights:
  • Good afternoon; My name is "X" and I'm a supporter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
  • I want to thank the committee chairs and the committee members who have treated us with respect and decorum throughout the session.
  • I want you to know that, whether or not this bill passes, thousands of Moms and I will be organizing in our communities and we'll be back here in the interim and next session.
  • I oppose open carry because it is a bad policy that doesn't solve any existing problems.
  • It panders to dangerous and extreme element.
  • It is opposed overwhelmingly by law enforcement officials across this state.
  • I understand this legislative body is considering adding campus carry as an amendment.
  • All major stakeholders on university campuses oppose campus carry.
    • Author's Note: Who cares?!?

Monday, May 18, 2015

J.D. Sheffield's tantrum on Texas House Floor


"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him."
Proverbs 22:15

Last Friday, J.D. Sheffield attempted to sneak through a bad bill on the local and consent calendar.  Jonathan Stickland wasn't having it.  Sheffield's reaction speaks for itself:



Highlights:
  • "Mr. Stickland is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong."
  • Takes cheap shot at Sid Miller.
  • Stickland: "Does the gentleman intend to speak for ten minutes on this bill?!?"