Wednesday, February 22, 2017

About Texas Constitutional Carry...and the NRA: An open letter to Dana Loesch


"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
Nehemiah 4:18

Dana,

First things first, as I was sitting down to write this post literally before I logged into blogger, I saw that New Hampshire passed Constitutional Carry this morning; good for them!!!

But congrats on the new NRA gig.

Let's talk business: The reason I'm writing today is because we both support constitutional carry in Texas; but, absent significant public pressure, it ain't gonna happen.

To complicate matters, the NRA's Texas affiliate has historically been absent on constitutional carry; as Cary Cheshire reported in January:
In a memo to members informing them of what to expect from the Texas Legislature, the Texas State Rifle Association omitted the top legislative priority of the state’s Republican Party and what is likely to be the most contentious gun-related issue of the session: constitutional carry.

Voted as the number one priority of the Republican Party of Texas by delegates at the 2016 GOP Convention in Dallas, “constitutional carry” refers to removing the licensing requirement for Texans to carry a handgun.

Though conservative State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Beford) pre-filed the legislation in November, thus far the Texas GOP has been glaringly silent with Chairman Tom Mechler refusing to endorse the measure publicly or respond to repeated requests for comment.

The TSRA, which claims on its website to support “the fewest restrictions for law-abiding Texas gun owners,” doesn’t mention the legislation at all in a recent letter to members.
In fairness to TSRA, they got on board following Cary's post.   But they've always been re-active instead of proactive.  And that's a charitable interpretation.

But, given that we're nearly a third of the way through the current legislative session, let's leave the past in the past.

Where do things stand now?!?

HB 375 by Jonathan Stickland is the only credible constitutional carry bill to have been filed in either chamber.  While a second toothless House bill was filed last week, that bill is a distraction designed to create the appearance of second amendment activity without meaningful accomplishment.  In the Senate, they have until March 10 to file a companion bill (Don Huffines carried it last session).

So, absent a Senate bill getting filed in the next two weeks, HB 375 is the only path forward.

HB 375 was recently referred to the Homeland Security committee, chaired by Phil King; right now, the bill needs a hearing.

Rep. Phil King: (512) 463-0738

What can we use from the NRA?!?

Thousands of phone calls.

If the NRA did an e-mail blast to their Texas members, that would generate more than enough pressure to get the bill moving; if they did the same thing at every other stage of the process (four stages total), there's a decent chance it passes.

But, absent the sort of numbers only the NRA can bring, it ain't gonna happen.

And, considering your new gig, you're now in a position to help make that happen.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,
Cahnman
ATX
February 22, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tinderholt proposes reigning in program recently seen Subsidizing Heroin Addiction


“A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
But a faithful ambassador brings health.”
Proverbs 13:17

There's been a longer piece about the personal tragedies being wrought by the decrepit national economy making the rounds on social media the past few days; it contains this gem about the Medicaid program in Ohio:
But how did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program. Here is how it works (we are with Quinones in Portsmouth, Ohio):
[The Medicaid card] pays for medicine—whatever pills a doctor deems that the insured patient needs. Among those who receive Medicaid cards are people on state welfare or on a federal disability program known as SSI. . . . If you could get a prescription from a willing doctor—and Portsmouth had plenty of them—Medicaid health-insurance cards paid for that prescription every month. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.
In 21st-century America, “dependence on government” has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.

You may now wish to ask: What share of prime-working-age men these days are enrolled in Medicaid? According to the Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent). And for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.
Which makes the recently filed HB 1871 by Tony Tinderholt all the more important:
Representative Tinderholt Files HB 1871 to Audit Medicaid

In an effort to protect the integrity of Medicaid and ensure taxpayer dollars are not being wasted, State Representative Tony Tinderholt has filed HB 1871 to audit the state Medicaid program.  
Most Texans agree the elimination of abuse and fraud from government programs is important. HB 1871 requires Medicaid recipients recertify their eligibility when current benefits expire. It also begins a quarterly audit of the program. Qualified individuals would be notified to ensure they continue receiving uninterrupted care during the recertification and audit processes. 
Tinderholt commented on his bill saying, "To make sure resources are available to fund programs like Medicaid, we must stamp out waste in the system. It is our duty as legislators to monitor agency spending and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in an efficient manner." 
While exact estimates vary, experts conclude Medicaid waste numbers in the tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States. While funding comes from a number of sources, including state and federal agencies, individual states exhibit the greatest control of finding fraud in the program.    
Tinderholt said, "If people are receiving benefits to which they are not entitled, we have to get that under control. We want to be sure the funds are there for those that need them most." 
As a combat veteran, Tony has spent much of his life fighting to protect the life and liberty of others. This bill continues that fight. Tony Tinderholt represents District 94 where he lives with his wife Bethany in Arlington. Tony is a proud father, combat veteran, and conservative Republican. He was ranked the 3rd most conservative legislator of the 150 Texas Representatives.
While we're on the subject, learn more about Texas specific examples of Medicaid abusing the vulnerable here.

Bottom Line: Medicaid has always been a fiscal trainwreck, but when socialized medicine subsidizes the drug abuse we owe it to our vulnerable citizens to curtail this abusive program.  In other words, we owe it to both ourselves and the recipients.  That's win/win.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The most important step #TXLEGE can take to rein in ever-increasing housing costs....


"They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
Isaiah 65:21

We finally got around to reading the paper on land-use restrictions that TPPF released last year; the whole thing is worth a gander, but the following recommendation is, by far, the single most important step the legislature can take to rein in housing costs:
Strengthen statutory protections against regulatory takings in Sec. 2007.003, Government Code.

Although the Texas Constitution prohibits state and local governments from taking private property without adequate compensation, the judiciary has all but limited the provision’s application to physical intrusions and/or seizures. In the instance of a regulatory taking—that is when the government restricts an owner’s right to use his land, thereby markedly reducing its value—Texans have to rely on the Private Real Property Protection Act of 1995 for a remedy. Lawmakers, however, exempted municipalities from the Act’s reach, enabling them to impose heavy-handed restrictions on a parcel’s land use without ever having to worry about the costs inflicted on the owner and/ or prospective seller. By closing that exemption, and by applying the compensation requirement to municipal regulations that diminish a property’s value by at least 20 percent, the Texas Legislature would force local governments to confront and assess the real consequences of their land use and zoning policies. Local governments would still have the power to zone for compatible uses, but the worst manifestations of that power. In other words, those policies that have the gravest impact on housing development would be discouraged.
Read the whole thing here.

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It's worth pointing out that, before he became Lt. Governor, then-Senator Dan Patrick filed bills related to this subject (that died without a hearing)...which means an advocate exists in leadership.  Craig Estes filed a similar bill (that met a similar fate) last session.  We've heard rumors there will be a reprisal this session, but so far that appears to be more talk than action.

Notes on Texas' various Corporate Welfare programs....


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

Over the weekend, we read TPPF's recently released Policymaker's Guide to Corporate Welfare; we offer some notes on things we found interesting, but we recommend reading the whole thing yourself.

TPPF divides corporate welfare into three areas:
  • State Subsidies -- Direct payments from taxpayers.
  • Local Tax "Incentives" -- Special interest carve outs that lead to higher rates for everyone else.
  • Regulatory favoritism -- According to TPPF: "the government enacts a series of regulations that essentially locks in a guaranteed revenue stream for existing players, all while discouraging new players from entering the market."
TPPF makes a number of policy recommendations; all move the ball in the right direction, though we will note some areas where they don't go far enough:
  • Eliminate the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • Repeal all of the "Event Trust Funds."
  • Eliminate the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.
  • Eliminate the Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program.
  • Eliminate the Texas Emissions Reduction Program.
  • Eliminate the mandatory Texas' Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • Abolish the Skills Development Fund.
  • Require "Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones" to publish their financial information on a the local governmental entity in questions public website.
    • Note I: This doesn't go nearly far enough; Tax Increment Financing and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones should be abolished in their entirety.
    • Note II: The "Transportation" bond Austin passed last year is full of this crap.
  • Allow Chapter 312 "property tax abatements" to expire in 2019!!!
    • Note: Did you know that all local property tax abatements will go away in two years if the legislature does nothing?!?  Neither did we!!!  The Senate needs to grow a pair and kill this nonsense without a hearing.
  • Eliminate Chapter 313 "abatements" from school districts.
    • Note: Apparently, the office of the comptroller was recently given authority to deny this foolishness as well; we'll be keeping an eye on Glenn Hegar's performance in this area.
  • Require local governments to make their "economic development" policies consistent and transparent.
    • Note: No, we should just abolish this drivel.
  • Eliminate the ability of political subdivisions to impose section 4A and 4B sales taxes.
  • Discontinue public funding for "Economic Development Corporations."
  • Eliminate Hotel Occupancy Taxes.
  • Deregulate Title Insurance.
  • Deregulate medical "scope of practice" requirements.
  • Eliminate Texas' "three tier" system of alcohol regulations.
    • Note: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is a public policy abomination that should be abolished in it's entirety.
  • Review every occupational license category in Texas and eliminate all but those that demonstrate the highest level of need to protect health and safety.
    • Note: Licensing is theft.  There is no 'health and safety' for any category of license.  That's always been true, but it's even truer in a world that includes Yelp!
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Update on Constitutional Carry in the #TXLEGE


"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me."
Nehemiah 4:18

Jonathan Stickland gives the following update on HB 375:



Highlights:

  • Referred to Homeland Security committee
  • Phil King is the committee chair; has promised a hearing.
  • Bill now needs a hearing.
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Chairman Phil King: (512) 463-0738

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One further update: In working on this post, we discovered something ASTONISHING.  No member of the Texas Senate has even filed a constitutional carry bill.  Unfortunately, duly noted....

Friday, February 17, 2017

Testimony on #ATXCouncil's "Capitol View Corridor" Nonsense....


"But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!"
2 Chronicles 15:7

We said our piece about Council's expansion of the "Capitol View Corridor" yesterday, but nevertheless as a glutton for punishment we did show up to testify on the subject:



Highlights:

  • "I don't know if dangerous is the right word, but it's a bit unsettling."
  • "This entire process is really dangerous and will just make gentrification on the east side that much worse."
    • Author's Note: Yes, we're aware of the irony of expressing reservations about using the word dangerous then going ahead and using the word in the next sentence.
  • Demand going up, supply staying the same, means higher prices; higher prices mean more gentrification.
  •  "As far as the equity concerns go, personally I think we should be repealing Capitol View Corridor restrictions on the west side."
  • "I understand if we're going to be doing it on the west side we should be doing it on the east side as well...well, let's stop doing it on the west side."
  • "If you want to have housing you can see the Capitol from on the east side, the way this is going, I think that housing is going to be really, really, really expensive."
  • We use the word dangerous a third time.

#TROXROX: Troxclair assembles #ATXCouncil coalition to kill asinine city contract!!!


"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich."
Proverbs 13:4

We put in an appearance at yesterday's council meeting to discuss the absurd Capitol View Corridor restrictions.  We'll address it in a separate post, but the fix appears to be in on that issue as much as it's always been.  That being said, while we were at city hall yesterday we did get to observe a pretty awesome silver lining courtesy of Ellen Troxclair!!!

Check out item #29 from yesterday's agenda:


This was a contract for trash disposal services at various city owned properties (eg. City Hall).  It would have replaced a recently expired contract to provide similar services...but at more than twice the cost.  The reason why is that the new contract would have created trash collection routes only for city properties, whereas the previous contract included the city properties as one stop on preexisting residential/commercial trash collection routes.

But here's where things get interesting: In addition to the fiscal absurdity of the proposed contract, there were also legitimate environmental concerns; the short version is that several other council members were worried about toxic waste getting dumped in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

And Ellen Troxclair did the legwork to put together the fiscal/environmental coalition that led council to unanimously reject the contract.

Bottom Line: For all of the headline generating controversy yesterday, we were (once again) impressed with Ellen Troxclair's diligence that will ultimately save taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million!!!