Friday, April 29, 2016

How Big Government is Driving Out Ridesharing

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Acts 19:24-27

Texas Public Policy Foundation -- Yesterday afternoon, TPPF hosted a policy primer to discuss regulatory issues related to ridesharing.  Obviously, this is happening in the context of the upcoming Prop. 1 referendum.  Panelists were Senator Don Huffines, Councilmember Ellen Troxclair, Josiah Neely of the R Street institute, and Joe Deshotel of the Travis County Democrat Party.

Troxclair explained how the regulations council passed don't create a level playing field across the ride for hire industry.  To do so would require either forcing TNC's into the city's franchise system (*SHUDDER*) or eliminate the arbitrary cap on taxi's (which we'd love, but of which the Taxi companies are the strongest opponent).  She also pointed out it might be impossible to regulate TNCs and taxis the same way, just as it's impossible to regulate cell phones and landline or Netflix and Blockbuster in the same way.

Troxclair also made a very good point about why Uber and Lyft have leverage in the first place.  They only have leverage because the service is incredibly valuable.  Hundreds of people don't stay at a council meeting until the wee hours of the morning unless they care about the issue.  65,000 people don't sign a petition unless the feeling is widespread.  That's the response to the silly "Uber and Lyft are buying an election" narrative.

Senator Huffines discussed state level pre-emption.  He considered this in the context of local government accountability.  As Senator Huffines said, "local control is not a blank check" when municipalities infringe upon the liberties of their citizens.  His goal would be to pass a bill that "levels the playing field with no regulations."  This was the first time we'd heard him talk about this issue.  He brought up a really good point when he asked if we should also fingerprint passengers to prevent harm to the driver.  We pray he doesn't give anyone ideas.

Deshotel voiced concerns the Uber and Lyft would eventually become a monopoly.  The thought was that because the companies use investor capital to keep prices for consumers low, eventually they'll raise prices after they price the incumbent providers out of existence.  We don't share that concern.  We're old enough to remember when people said the same thing about Amazon fifteen years ago.  To this day, that still hasn't happened.

Deshotel correctly pointed out that this discussion will not end with Prop. 1.  We agree with that prediction but disagree as to what it means for Prop. 1.  We believe Prop. 1 passing is the only way to get the taxi companies to acquiesce to meaningful deregulation.

Regardless of what happens with Prop. 1, this debate is going to continue for awhile.  Yesterday's primer was a good discussion of the landscape moving forward.  Kudos to TPPF.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ken Paxton at NE Tarrant Tea Party

"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12

Ken Paxton spoke at NE Tarrant Tea Party last weekend; it's the biggest update we've heard from him in awhile:

  • "If you are running statewide and you don't win Tarrant County, you don't get elected."
  • None of the newspapers supported his AG campaign, so it's not surprising they're attacking him now."
  • "Sometimes your biggest challenge is not the Democratic [sic] party, it's people in our own party."
  • "The reality is, when you go down to Austin and you're going to stick to your conservative principles, there are those in our own party oftentimes who find that too enlightening for them because they have their own path they want to take."
  • State bar is investigating his law license.
  • 4 issues on which AG's office is focusing:
    • Law enforcement.
    • Religious Liberty
    • Life
    • Tenth Amendment
  • HB 2 was successful at 5th Circuit.
  • Sued Obama admin. 9 times since taking office.
  • Amnesty - We won at the 5th circuity, so we win with a tie.
  • "If the Supreme Court tells us President Obama can change the law, Congress is irrelevant."
  • "If you're reading stuff about me in the paper, please don't believe it."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

3rd Court of Appeals hears Laura Pressley

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
Leviticus 19:11

3rd Court of Appeals -- This afternoon, the 3rd Court of Appeals hear Laura Pressley's appeal of the summary judgement issued last year in her election contest against Greg Casar.  If Pressley's appeal is successful, it would remand the case back to the trial court for a full trial.  Most importantly, re-instating Pressley's lawsuit would resume the process of discovery that was aborted with the summary judgement.

Judge Melissa Goodwin voiced concerns about whether or not proceeding with Pressley's lawsuit would "disenfranchise voters."  Pressley's attorney, David Rogers, correctly pointed out that the voters were already disenfranchised when "Travis County dropped the ball."  Travis County disenfranchised the voters with their failure to follow Texas Election Code; holding Travis County accountable for their actions doesn't disenfranchise anything.

The case hinges on the difference between 'ballot images' and 'cast vote records.'  During the recount, Travis County was able to produce the latter but not the former.  Cast vote records are a tally sheet for total votes cast.  Ballot images are manuscripts of how individual voters voted.  Consider the difference:

Casar's lawyer claimed a "CVR is the same thing as a ballot image."  Obviously, that isn't true.  Pressley's lawyers explained that the whole point of the recount was to verify what the cast vote records were claiming.  That's why you need the ballot images.  That's why we're here.

The other major issue was the fact that Travis County didn't print out 'zero tapes' during early voting.  Zero tapes are the daily election results for each polling location.  The Texas Election Code requires election judges to print zero tapes DAILY during early voting.  Casar's lawyer pointed out that the secretary of state had granted Travis County a waiver from this provision.  Of course, waiver or no, that doesn't change the fact that Travis County failed to follow Texas Election Code (Sidenote; That the Sec'y of State is advising counties to break the law is the subject for another day.)

The final issue concerned the financial sanctions the trial court placed on Pressley and her lawyer.  Rogers pointed out how most of the alleged  issues that led to the sanctions had never occurred.  Discussing these issues, Casar's attorney spoke in favor of the sanctions to prevent the "dangerous" precedent of candidates filing election challenges.

At the end of the day, victory would mean returning this case to the lower court to hold a full trial.  Most important, it would re-open the process of discovery that the summary judgement short-circuited.  The Court of Appeals should rule in about a month.

Texas Senate begins to act on Tuition

"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord."
Colossians 3:20

Yesterday, Lt. Governor Patrick and Sen. Seliger held a press conference to discuss recent tuition hikes at Texas' public universities.  The press conference was followed by a hearing in the Higher education committee.  The combined press conference and hearing began to reveal details of the tuition related actions the Lt. Governor assured us were coming in our interview last fall.

The biggest takeaway is that tuition related bills will be priority legislation for the Texas Senate next session.  Lt. Governor Patrick assured the press conference that something addressing tuition "will have a low bill number."  The precise details are still in flux.  A redux of Sen. Schwertner's tuition bill might be the approach the Senate takes, but it also might not.  Nonetheless, Lt. Governor Patrick warned the universities: "it's safe to say, there's a new crew [in the Texas Senate]."

Lt. Governor Patrick spoke very favorably about ending tuition "set asides."  These set asides are a resdistributive tax through which one group of students subsidizes the tuition of a more politically favored group.  Senator Seliger bemoaned one university system that increased it's budget 5-fold in just nine years.  The Lt. Governor also voiced his displeasure at the obscene salary increases we've seen recently at public universities (UT, of course, is the worst offender, but none of the Universities' noses are clean here).  Most interestingly, the Lt. Governor assured that the next round of regental confirmation will have lots of questions about costs and tuition.  In what can only be seen as a de facto endorsement of Wallace Hall, Lt. Governor Patrick said "[The Board of Regents'] job is not to be a rubber stamp for our higher education."  Time will tell how much they listen.

Higher Education coordinating board chairman Raymund Paredes led of the hearing.  He made a lot of bureaucratic excuses about tuition in Texas being less out of control than other states.   This reminded us of Michael Quinn Sullivan's old quip about Texas being "the least drunk state at the bar."  Another shocking aspect to which Paredes testified is the financial illiteracy of students taking out loans.  There are, literally, students in Texas who don't know they've taken out loans until the repayment calls start.  Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp and Tech chancellor Bob Duncan testified next.  They made the difficult to believe claim that administrative costs were less than 7% of each system's respective budget.

Bill McRaven testified next.  Unfortunately, his testimony occurred at the same time as the Franklin Graham event, so we didn't witness it.  Apparently, the Senators tore him a new one over the tuition hike and the Houston expansion.

One interesting political note: to his credit, it appears (Higher Ed Chairman) Seliger is on board with the Senate's efforts.  This is notable, considering that Seliger has historically been one of the bad guys on Higher Ed.  We don't know if Seliger's motivation is genuine or political, but either way it's a very positive sign moving forward (and, we suspect, a tremendous credit to the Lt. Governor).

Bottom Line: For the Universities to raise tuition over the objections of the Texas Senate was the equivalent of poking a sleeping bear with a stick.  Yesterday, the bear began clearing the cobwebs.  This is going to be a really fun subplot next session.


Lt. Governor Patrick's statement:
AUSTIN - Today, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Kel Seliger held a press conference to address data collected related to skyrocketing university tuition, fee rates and student debt.

"The issue of rising tuition and rising student debt is of great public concern," said Patrick. "It is the responsibility of the legislature to respond and work with our higher education institutions to lower costs. After passing a budget that increased funding for higher education by 8.9 percent last session, universities quickly raised their tuition rates. Since 2002, university tuition and fees increased 147 percent while the median household income and consumer price index have only increased 32 percent. Costs have simply outpaced what families are earning and able to pay.

"Next session the Senate will look closely at a number of cost reforms, including performance-based funding, which brings increased accountability and affordability back by requiring education institutions to meet high performance targets before increasing tuition above inflation.

"The issue of rising tuition rates and student debt must end and I will do what it takes to bring relief to hard-working families across Texas," concluded Patrick.

To see the press conference on tuition rates and student debt from this morning click here:

TPPF's statement:

TPPF Statement on Rising Tuition and
Student Debt for Higher Education

AUSTIN – Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education Policy Analyst Trevor McGuire issued the following statement on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s and Texas State Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger’s announcement to address high tuition costs and student debt:

            “The cost of tuition in Texas has increased 149 percent since tuition deregulation, almost five times the growth of the median income in Texas over the same period,” said McGuire. “We support the Lt. Governor and Senator Seliger’s plan for addressing the issues of tuition and student debt by considering performance-based funding, the elimination of tuition set-asides, and reining-in excessive administrative costs during the next legislative session. The Legislature should address these three issues, which primarily affect four-year institutions, while also providing sufficient attention and resources to Texas’s community and technical colleges – where both student debt and tuition are much lower than at four-year institutions.

            “While the most effective solutions to rising tuition costs and student debt will be those developed collaboratively between the Legislature, colleges and universities, and the Coordinating Board, we are encouraged by the Lt. Governor’s promise to hold university regents more accountable if suitable progress cannot be made toward making Texas higher education more affordable.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"While You're in Town": An Open Letter to Franklin Graham

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

[Author's Note: If readers are so inclined, they can tweet this post to @Franklin_Graham.]

Dear Reverend Graham,

Welcome to Austin.  I'm a blogger here in town.  My most famous piece of work came in 2013, when I released video of pro-Abortion protesters at the Capitol chanting "Hail Satan."

I'm writing to discuss a frequently overlooked issue on which the Church can be salt and light in the political arena.  Furthermore, salt and light on this issue will disproportionately cleanse the rot at the heart of our political system.  I'm talking about financial righteousness and unwavering opposition to the wicked, unbiblical, practice of economic protectionism.

It doesn't take a genius to see that big business is not our friend.  You live in North Carolina, so you're probably following the corporate bullying closer than me.  Here in Texas, the corrupt merchants at the Texas Association of Business have launched a similar economically fraudulent campaign against religious liberty.  Big business is carrying water for the big government social agenda.  But the solution isn't boycotts.  The solution is competition.  That's why the Church in America needs to support policies and ministries that encourage entrepreneurship and startup culture.

There is a a strong Biblical case for what I propose.  A major theme of Proverbs is the condemnation of unjust accumulation and praise for honest industry.  Whenever a corporation jacks a regulation in its favor or gets a bailout, that's an unjust weight and measure.  The riot at Ephesus was about Economic Protectionism.  For every Bible verse about sex, there are approximately ten about money.

Obviously, the Bible discusses debt and taxes at length.  America is rapidly becoming enslaved to our lenders, and this includes our state and local governments.  Every penny of debt we allow Caesar to impose strengthens this wicked system.  Here in Austin, we've defeated three bonds in the last three years.  While Jesus commands us to pay taxes, He also commands tax collectors to not abuse citizens.  High taxes also played an important role in splitting the ancient kingdom.  Legally cutting off Caesar's lifeblood, from our local communities on up, will pay dividends on numerous other issues.

Here in Austin, we have an example of this approach's success.  One of our local city council members, Don Zimmerman, is a strong Christian who originally developed a reputation as a champion for taxpayers.  His opponent was president of the local gay and lesbian chamber of commerce.  Obviously, the gay and lesbian part demonstrates his support for that agenda.  But, due to the Chamber of Commerce part, he was also on record supporting unpopular "economic development" subsidies for Apple.  Don's opposition to that Apple deal helped get him across the finish line in a very close race.  You read that right: opposition to special interest tax-subsidies helped defeat the rainbow flag!

I do not propose this course of action instead of focusing on the issues in which we are now engaged.  What I'm saying is that a commitment to financial righteousness and opposition to economic protectionism will weaken the forces of the status quo.  Weakening this wicked status quo will give us the space we need to successfully pursue our agenda on life, marriage, and religious liberty.  With every tax abatement, every jacked up regulation, and every subsidy this wicked status quo gains strength.  Every penny of government spending we cut, and restriction upon economic liberty we repeal, weakens it.  Economic protectionism is the unguarded underbelly of the status quo, and there's a strong Biblical case for going after it.  As you travel the country and encourage Christians to engage the political process, I ask you to keep this issue in mind.

Adam Cahn
Austin, TX
April 26, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016


"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Ephesians 6:12

Amen to all of this:

Voters Beware: Iceberg Ahead!
Posted by Read King on Monday, April 25, 2016


  • There's a lot that happens in the legislature that the voters don't see; a lot of discussion happens "off the floor."
  • We need more flashlights in dark corners.
  • Doesn't want to spend decades in elected office.
  • Calls BS on the notion "you can't be effective" on day 1.
  • "We don't need to have someone who's there forever."

Austin Code Compliance's Latest ABOMINATION....

"If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them."
Ecclesiastes 5:8

Your tax dollars at work.  This is like some horrific hybrid of Parks and Recreation and the Trailer Park Boys.  Check out the degree to which they portray the citizens with whom they interact as blithering idiots while the code compliance bureaucrats are benevolently protecting those idiots from themselves:

No comment necessary; these speak for themselves.