TPA Blog Round Up (September 21, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 7:55 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy and balanced equinox as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff stands with Ahmed.

Socratic Gadfly turns a bit of a skeptical eye to European panic over the “refugee crisis” and provides some critical analysis of how it’s being handled.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos tried her very best to watch the second GOP Presidential debate but she just couldn’t take it anymore. She hung in there for two hours and twenty minutes. GOP Presidential Debate: A Trip Back to the Twilight Zone

Tired of watching Bernie Sanders surge, Clinton surrogates grabbed the ‘socialist’ brush and started smearing him. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is pretty certain that this is how it’s going to go until the Sanders campaign no longer represents a threat to her coronation nomination.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. It’s becoming clear that the GOP in Texas has no problem with the cuts to Medicaid therapy. They just don’t want to be blamed for it, Abbott, GOP Want Cuts, But No Blame.

Neil at All People Have Value said that Alexander Hamilton should remain on the $10 bill. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The TSTA Blog salutes education reporter Terrence Stutz on his retirement.

Paradise in Hell annotates Donald Trump’s Texas speech, and celebrates its first year of blogging.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains why parents should care about climate change.

David Ortez reports from a Houston Mayoral forum on issues facing younger voters.

Danyahel Norris illustrates the importance of Houston’s equal rights ordinance.

Finally, the TPA congratulates Lize Burr on her new positions as Editor and Publisher of the Burnt Orange Report.


As The Williamson County GOP Turns

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, District Attorney, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 1:34 pm by wcnews


There’s bee a soap opera going for several months in Williamson County. If you not familiar with it go here and here.

Over the summer we learned that Judge Rick Kennon will be running against Jana Duty in the upcoming GOP Primary for Williamson County DA.

The latest shows us the kind of mess we get when one party holds every political office in the county, Williamson County DA attacks judge’s ruling in capital murder case.

The fight over the Williamson County capital murder case of Crispin Harmel has heated up again, with the district attorney alleging in a court document that a judge retaliated against her for examining his divorce records.

That’s right this whole fight might stem from the current DA doing opposition research on a potential future political opponent.  All the while a murder case twists in the wind.

Take it offline you two and stop wasting our time and money.


Abbott, GOP Want Cuts, But No Blame

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet?, Health Care at 8:09 am by wcnews



It’s becoming clear that the GOP in Texas has no problem with the cuts to Medicaid therapy reimbursement rates for physical, occupational, and speech therapy for the disabled. They just don’t want to be blamed for it.

And Gov. Greg Abbott may have emails that proved just that. Via Scott Braddock at QR, Amid Medicaid controversy, Gov. Abbott refuses to release emails between his office and HHSC.

As a bipartisan backlash grew against the cuts, sources told QR on August 26 that Abbott had told the agency to stick to its guns on the issue while staying publicly silent about it.

A spokesman for Gov. Abbott repeatedly declined to comment to QR and later declined to comment to the Houston Chronicle.

On September 2, Quorum Report submitted a Texas Public Information Act request for emails between Abbott’s office and top HHSC officials dated between July 1 and September 1.

After 5pm on Thursday evening, Abbott’s office informed QR that the request is being appealed to the Office of the Attorney General.

Here is the letter from Abbott’s office notifying QR of their decision to involve the AG’s office in the process.

Obviously those emails contain things Abbott would rather not see the light of day.  It’s clear the GOP still wants these cuts – Abbott included – they just don’t want to be blamed for it. If they don’t go through with the cuts, at this point, it’s would be them admitting that government health care works and the government can actually do good in people’s lives. And that they cannot have.

[UPDATE]:  More on Abbott’s lack of transperancy, Abbott concealing Medicaid emails contrasts with campaign promise.

Promising transparency is easy while campaigning, delivering while in office is another matter

In seeking refuge in an AG Opinion on delivering his emails to HHSC about controversial Medicaid cuts in services to disabled children, Governor Greg Abbott cited virtually the entire Public Information Act instead of the provision under which he was seeking an exemption. That lack of specificity is certainly unique in Quorum Report experience and a quick check among the Texas Capitol community suggests we are not alone in thinking it may be unprecedented.

The blanket claim for exemption is both absurd and silly.


TPA Blog Round Up (September 14, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 11:12 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that no one has a constitutional right to be a County Clerk as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the very high stakes of the voter ID appeal.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos asks why the U.S. cannot have high speed rail that is common in Europe and Asia? Why? The do-nothing GOP, of course. Republican Are Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

Socratic Gadfly, linking to the first piece he has written for an in-depth philosophy and social sciences webzine, explores the parallels between Constitutional originalism and religious fundamentalism.

The best debate in the Houston mayoral contest happened last Thursday night, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs blogged about it.

Texas Leftist agrees with President Obama… the economic future of the United States may soon be inextricably linked to the world’s next great power player. Here’s why it’s time for Texas to take a new look at Africa. Plus some coverage as the Houston Unites Campaign kicks into high gear.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The Texas GOP has a problem with health care. They hate it and it shows, Common Sense Conservatism Is Bad For Your Health.

Neil at All People Have Value was glad to see outreach by the Harris County Green Party on Labor Day. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Juanita unloads on Houston Mayoral candidate Ben Hall.

Grits for Breakfast calls out Dan Patrick for misleading and incendiary rhetoric about crime and the police.

The TSTA Blog rebuts a Wall Street Journel op-ed on the recent SCOTUS charter school ruling.

Liz Goulding looks back on three years of being a one-car household.

The Bloggess celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day.


Carter’s Delusional Statement On Iran Deal

Posted in Around The Nation at 2:37 pm by wcnews


EOW hasn’t said anything about the historic deal that the US and five other countries (England, France, China, Russia, & Germany) reached with Iran on it’s nuclear weapons program.

Here’s a good article for supporting the deal, 9 Reasons to Support the Iran Deal.

And here’s a pretty good discussion of the deal.

After our last President it’s much better that we actually try diplomacy for real instead of going to war after faking it. Living in a world with other people, as we do, it makes sense to accept this deal negotiated with some of our most trusted and long time allies.

As the discussion points out, no one knows how this will turn out.  We know how war will turn out, more death and suffering. War can still happen later, if the deal is broken.  It makes sense to give peace a chance.

All of this makes Rep. John Carter’s delusional statement all the more disheartening and sad.  Read the entire delusional statement here.


Common Sense Conservatism Is Bad For Your Health

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet?, Health Care at 2:22 pm by wcnews


The Texas GOP has a problem with health care.  They hate it, for everyone other then themselves of course.  But what they really hate is Medicaid – (and Medicare and Social Security).  But they hate Medicaid

so much so that they did this, Cuts Threaten Therapy Services for Disabled Texas Kids.

Jaxon doesn’t respond to anti-epilepsy medication, and taking him to a crowded hospital or outpatient clinic for therapy would trigger even more seizures and spasms, his mother said. Instead, the family relies on three therapists who each visit their Corsicana home twice a week to help Jaxon cope with his disability.

The speech, occupational and physical therapy that Jaxon receives are all covered by the Texas Medicaid Acute Care Therapy Program, which provides in-home pediatric services for low-income children with birth defects, genetic disorders or cognitive disabilities. Adults recovering from injuries or coping with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s also use the program.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a budget rider directing the Health and Human Services Commission to find ways to save on Medicaid therapy costs. The commission settled on a scheme that would cut reimbursement rates for Medicaid therapy providers that disabled Texans like Jaxon rely on. The cuts amount to a loss of $150 million in state money over the next two fiscal years, and jeopardize another $200 million in federal matching funds.

Rachel Hammon, executive director of the Texas Association of Home Care and Hospice, said home health agencies won’t be able to sustain such a drastic financial hit.

The reimbursement rate reduction “will most certainly impact individuals’ ability to access care,” she said. As many as 60,000 children will bear the brunt of these cuts. The jobs of thousands of therapists statewide are also in peril.

Since word got out late last month about just how cruel the Texas GOP’s cuts are, some…and I emphasize some, in the Texas GOP are backpedaling on this.

It’s not that they don’t want cuts to Medicaid, it seems they’re trying to find some way to make these cut without it being so noticeable.  Not sure that’s going to happen.  Cue Joe Straus, “so-called” compassionate conservative, The agency needs to tell lawmakers if cuts will harm access to care for disabled kids.

I expect the Commission to keep us in compliance with federal law as it works through a new proposal. I also believe it is the agency’s responsibility to inform the Legislature if the proposed reductions would harm access to care and network adequacy.

(Sen. Jane Nelson too).  When was the last time the Texas GOP cared about federal law?  Anyway.  Hey Joe, I’ve got a news flash for you, the cuts are going to hurt disabled kids!  But they knew that going in, and they didn’t care.  Most in the GOP still don’t.  See they think Medicaid is broken and they want the “freedom” to revamp it.

Repeating a familiar GOP argument, Schwertner said that Medicaid is “broken and ailing.” It cramps the Legislature’s ability to fund education, law enforcement and roads, he said.

He said that after Texans pay federal income tax and other federal taxes, some of their money comes back to the state as federal Medicaid matching dollars – but with too many conditions.

Schwertner called them “gold-plated handcuffs that stand in the way of common sense, conservative reforms that could otherwise help contain these exploding costs.”

Expanding Medicaid as Obamacare envisions is out of the question, he said, despite calls by hospitals and other health-care providers for a “Texas solution” that would draw down the extra federal money available.

“Until we receive the kind of flexibility we are calling for today, … any expansion of Medicaid in Texas is simply not worth discussing,” Schwertner said. [Emphasis added]

If they’ll do stuff like this without freedom, just imagine if we took away Sen. Schwertner’s gold plated hand cuffs. Many of us wouldn’t survive such common sense conservatism.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) urges Straus and Lt. Gov.Patrick to use their power to stop these cuts.

Case RE: Williamson County GOP’s Religious Test Moves Forward

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Williamson County at 8:17 am by wcnews


Via KVUE, Lawyer claims WilCo Commissioners want Baptist employees only.

It all began when Robert Lloyd, a 25-year veteran in law enforcement interviewed for a job as constable in 2013.

He claims the Williamson County Commissioners asked him illegal questions about his views on gay marriage, religion and abortion.

“I was shocked,” said Lloyd. “I was sick to my stomach when I left because I had never believed that things like this in government would go on.”

He filed a lawsuit against the commissioners for civil rights violations.

“Everybody knows those are illegal employment questions and they never should have been asked,” said Lloyd’s lawyer, Wayne Krause Yang, who is also the director of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

In a deposition video obtained by KVUE through Krause Yang, Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman admits to asking the questions.

“I asked a question on their view on gay marriage to all the applicants for Precinct 3 Constable and their view on abortion,” Birkman said.

So far the county has spent close to $200,000 defending their line of questioning.

“It has been pretty draining but for me; it’s the reason that I got into this, so it doesn’t happen to someone else,” Lloyd said.

His lawyer said commissioners asked the questions about gay marriage, abortion and religion because they are all Baptist and wanted a Baptist candidate.

“If you don’t go to the church that they go to, you can’t have a job as a public employee in Williamson County,” said Krause Yang.

Now a judge will decide what happens, and whether Williamson County will be forced to pay once more in federal court.

The DA goes to jail, and now this. What’s a one-party rule county to do? There are definitely some fallible humans running things in Williamson County.


TPA Blog Round Up (September 7, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 10:47 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone enjoyed the three day weekend provided by the labor movement as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reported on a busy week at the State Supreme Court, which heard the school finance appeal as well as a case involving the city’s of Houston’s anti-pollution ordinances.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is disgusted by the right wing’s politicization of a horrible tragedy in Houston. Harris Co. (Houston) TX Needs a New Sheriff.

SocraticGadfly, having edited photos from last month, shares National Parks’ geographic beauty, wildlife, history and astrophotography, in photos, narrative and photo album links from his most recent vacation.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau should be ashamed of herself for inviting death threats and hate on the TV station that broadcast video of her deputies shooting a man. Now we’re supposed to trust her investigation of the incident?

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finished posting about Houston’s citywide races on the November ballot with At Large 4, At Large 5, and the controller’s contest.

Looking for a balance in a complicated world, Neil at All People Have Value visited the place were Deputy Darren Goforth was killed in Harris County and the location in Prairie View of the incident that led to the police death of Sandra Bland. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock explains how Texas Republicans are sending mixed signals to business interests.

Better Texas Blog is ready for a school finance solution.

TransGriot gives you some reasons to fight for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

The Texas Election Law Blog fears that with redistricting still unsettled, the 2016 primaries could be a mess.

Newsdesk looks back at the Austin smoking ban, ten years after its implementation.


How GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott Governs

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Health Care, Taxes at 1:29 pm by wcnews


There have been two interesting article recently that shed some light on how GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott governs.  The first is from Scott Braddock, Texas is officially sending mixed signals to business. There are many funny parts to this article. Chief among them how thin-skinned the business community is to the bloviating of Ted Cruz and Konni Burton.

General Electric delivered a blow to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s economic development efforts on Friday as Bloomberg let us know that GE “dropped the Dallas area as a site for a possible headquarters move because of concern that Texas’s political climate is unfavorable to the company’s business.” The company is apparently considering other places like Atlanta, for example.

Whether or not Texas has become unfavorable to business, likely depends on the business. I doubt anyone  newcomers are unlikely to stop the flow of corporate welfare in Texas. As evidenced by this from later in the article.

Back in June, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, informing him about recently-passed tax cuts as well as the state’s economic incentives programs for businesses.

“How many of my colleagues (other governors) just passed a total tax package of $3.8 billion like we did last week in Texas?” Abbott asked Immelt. “The Lone Star State already offers one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the nation, with no corporate income tax, no individual tax and no property tax at the state level – not to mention one of the most competitive deal-closing incentives programs,” Abbbott said.

Like his predecessor, Gov. Abbott is making the pitch to businesses that government should work with them to achieve the goals of job creation and investment in the communities where they are located.

That makes it seem like there’s nothing Abbott wouldn’t do to satisfy the needs of a business. It’s too bad he won’t go to such lengths for the needs of the people of Texas.  Texans who need health care, a better education system, roads, and a living wage.  All of which Texas is struggling with right now and make for an unfavorable business climate.  Much more then the carping of Cruz and Burton.

Did someone say health care? Oh yeah, about that.  The second article has to do with Abbott’s scheming on health care.  Via the Texas Tribune, Abbott Courting Feds for Health Care Money, Emails Show.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on July 15, Gov. Greg Abbott sent an email from his personal account to his top advisers about an editorial published by the Houston Chronicle.

Its author, Ken Janda, had written that Texas’ health care safety net system for the poor and uninsured was “in serious danger of meltdown” because state leaders were refusing to expand health coverage to a million uninsured Texans living in poverty.

The governor told aides he wanted to “see the financials” of Janda’s nonprofit Community Health Choice, a health insurer affiliated with the Harris Health System, one of Texas’ largest public hospitals.

“I’m told by informed sources that most of these entities are rolling in dough,” Abbott wrote.

Paradise in Hell sums it up this way:

Abbott, who must be seen doing everything he can to oppose “Obamacare”, hasn’t been shy about attempting to hang onto another source of critical funding for Texas hospitals. The federal government provides a huge amount of money to Texas hospitals through the uncompensated care pool. For four years, the feds have reimbursed Texas’ safety-net hospitals for care they provide to people who cannot afford to pay because Texas refuses to embrace Medicaid expansion. Now that the feds are threatening to cut off this funding, Abbott is up in arms and has his administration attacking those who are arguing for Medicaid expansion.

What this shows is that Abbott is not concerned with the issues that the people of Texas are in need of the most. And that corporations and ideology are at the top of his list.  If anyone was still holding out hope that Abbott would not govern like Perry, it’s time to forget about that.


Carter’s Comments on Social Security, Gas Tax Are Misguided

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, District 31 at 9:58 am by wcnews


In a recent article Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) had this to say at a business event about Social Security and gas taxes.

Carter spoke at the Texas Association of Business Central Star Chapter luncheon Wednesday at the Wildflower Country Club. Carter answered questions posed by Bill Hammond, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business and members of the audience.

The first question was on the sustainability of Social Security and if it would be around when Carter’s grandchildren reached retirement age.

It won’t be without some changes, Carter said. “You have to have the courage to fix it.”

The majority of people in government don’t want to touch the subject. The most recent number indicates that Social Security disability payments will exceed retirement payments next year, Carter said.

One way to help the program remain solvent is to raise age eligibility, he said.

When the Social Security Bill was enacted in 1935, most people didn’t live to 65. Carter’s grandfathers died at age 60 and 54.

“Most of the people in this room will live into their 80s,” Carter said.

Short-term highway funding has been put in place and Hammond asked if a long-term highway bills is in the offing.

“We’re going to try,” Carter said.

One item that should be considered is the fuel tax, which is used to fund highway projects, he said. The mileage vehicles get continues to increase, resulting in less money for the highway trust fund.

Carter wants to stop taxing fuel and instead tax mileage.

“It’s not popular, but it could work,” he said.

First his comments on Social Security.  There’s a quick easy and painless (except for the wealthy) way to fix Social Security.  Currently Social Security has an earnings cap of $118,500/yr.  If that cap was raised significantly or taken off altogether Social Security would have no sustainability problems as far as the eye can see.

Keep in mind that raising the eligibility age is the same as a benefit cut.  Social Security is not going broke, if left unchanged, it will not be able to pay out 100% of benefits as it does today.  It will still be able to pay out a significant benefit though, and that’s if nothing is done.

Of course Carter talks about the “courage” it takes to fix the problem.  But the only one’s that are supposed to have courage are the future recipients.  No courage required from those who exceed the cap it would seem.

As far as the gas tax goes, it simply needs to be raised at the state and federal level.  It’s been over 20 years since the gas tax has been raised at the federal level and in Texas.  How would your family budget be if you hadn’t had a raise 20 years?  There’s no reason to try a new tax that “could” work, when we have a tax in place that can be raised that we know works.

Carter’s talk of courage falls flat when he veers off into this sort of misguided rhetoric.

Bernie has much better ideas for the middle class in America.

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