The weekly kumbaya breakfast between the big three Texas lawmakers broke down today into a round-robin of recriminations that concluded with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick declaring he was tired of Governor Greg Abbott and Speaker Joe Straus “picking on me.”
The blow-up, confirmed by multiple sources, represents the boiling point of long-simmering disputes. The House has been upset that Patrick declared his inauguration marked a “New Day” in Texas and that he pushed a conservative agenda quickly through the Senate with expectations that the House would just pass his legislation. But, instead, most of the Senate’s bills on tax cuts, licensed open carry of handguns and moving the Public Integrity Unit have languished in the House without even being referred to committee by Straus.
The House instead has passed its own version of the same legislation, putting the Senate in a take-it-or-leave-it position. To pass the Senate bills now, the House would have to have an entirely new debate on controversial measures it already has approved.
So the Senate, in what looked like retaliation on Tuesday, ignored a House-approved border security bill to vote on its own measure, putting the House into a take-it-or-leave-it position on border security – a measure that House Ways and Means Chair Dennis Bonnen had crafted to win support of border Democrats.
This may be Patrick’s New Day, but Straus’ Old Guard still runs the House.
Topping off that battle, Patrick’s grassroots advisory council sent out a letter Tuesday on its own letterhead attacking the House bill on pre-kindergarten education that was passed after a bitter fight. The legislation is part of Abbott’s signature set of legislation, but the Patrick advisory board of tea party activists claimed the bill would take children out of religious pre-schools and force them into “a Godless environment.” Patrick immediately put out a statement disowning the letter as “unsolicited and expresses the individual viewpoints of Texas citizens.”
Everyone’s pointing fingers and no one appears to be leading. Sooner or later they’ll realize they can’t get anything done without each other. Until then the sniping between the semi-sane members of the GOP and the wing nuts will continue, and for those of us on the left we’ll just get the popcorn.
Certainly there’s quite a bit of bad blood between these two factions of the GOP. The same folks that bankroll the tea party candidates, and the tea party candidates themselves, are with Patrick and against Straus. And vice versa, of course. It’s on display most days on the House floor when Stickland takes the back mike to questions Speaker Joe Straus or Rep. Dennis Bonnen. It’s been on display in the media recently when Bonnen took on Lt. Gov. Patrick.
There are a couple of parts in the Trib article that make clearer what’s going on.
Before the breakfast, Patrick crossed paths at the Capitol with Geren. In the brief encounter, the Fort Worth Republican said he ribbed Patrick about the lieutenant governor’s advisory board coming out against the pre-K plan pushed by Abbott and approved by the House.
“I said, ‘That was a pretty good ambush you put on the governor the other day,’” Geren recalled late Wednesday. Patrick replied that he had no idea what Geren was talking about, according to Geren’s account.
Geren said the exchange was not a confrontation: “I would never do that. I have too much respect for the office.”
“If he got his feelings hurt,” Geren added, “then maybe his skin’s a little too thin.”
Straus’ folks are pickin’ on Patrick. But Straus is being picked on by Patrick’s people.
Also at the breakfast, Straus complained of outside groups hectoring his members with mailers and phone calls and internet posts whenever the House disagrees with the Senate, and promoting Senate legislation over House legislation. When Patrick said he had no control over those groups, Straus apparently noted that Patrick had not complained about them or tried to stop them.
And Patrick trying to deny responsibility for his wing nut advisory board is not believable. It’s a group that didn’t exist until he created it.
On Tuesday, a group of grassroots advisers organized by Patrick blasted pre-K legislation passed earlier this month by the House, calling it “Godless” and comparing it to practices in “socialistic countries.”
Patrick responded in an email Tuesday that he had not seen the letter before it went out, didn’t solicit it and was working on an education package that includes pre-K. “I look forward to working with the senators, the House and the governor in the coming weeks to create a comprehensive package that includes A-F, parent trigger, opportunity districts, online learning, school choice and a pre-K program that’s good for Texas. Together, these bills will have a positive impact on education in Texas,” he said in that written statement.
His grassroots group was unapologetic after the letter went out. Just before midnight on Tuesday, Julie McCarty, a Tea Party activist from Tarrant County, posted on Facebook about the letter: “Well, somebody had to say it because 128 of our electeds sure weren’t standing up to the governor! … This pre-K bill is bad for Texas, bad for the budget, bad for kids and bad for families.”
Whether Straus and the House want to admit it or not, it is a new day with Patrick as Lt. Gov. And Patrick’s group has certainly made Abbott mad. There’s still time but it’s likely this will take a special session or two to bring before these guys are ready to compromise.
Who knew that inviting a bunch of nihilistic prevaricators into your inner circle would be such an ill-advised move? No one could have seen that coming. As the Observer notes, there’s no love lost between the House (read: Joe Straus) and the Senate (Danno, of course) over the bordersurge bills, among other things. Some of this is just the way things are at this point in the session. It’s like going on a long road trip with your family – no matter how much you may love them, after enough time together without a break, tensions can get a little high. Some of it is ego and the kind of inside baseball that no one outside of the Capitol hothouse cares about. And some of it is genuine differences, not all of which will get resolved. How big a mess it becomes, and how much gets salvaged and smoothed over, remains to be seen.
The more I read about the tax cut debate in Texas the funnier it gets. The GOP right now has two competing tax cut proposals. We’ll call them the House plan (sales tax cut) and the Senate plan (property tax cut). They’re both offered as a reaction to the failed GOP tax swap scheme of 2006. Which provided little if any tax relief and actually created a structural deficit which lead to immoral tax cuts soon after.
The last time lawmakers approved school property tax relief, then-Gov. Rick Perry ran ads promising a $2,000 cut for the average homeowner.
The angry calls from taxpayers who looked in vain for lower bills are still ringing in some lawmakers’ ears as they again work to reduce taxes. “They called us liars,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who wants to avoid property-tax promises and instead trim the state sales tax.
The problem for Bonnen’s approach lies across the Texas Capitol, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick already has led Senate passage of a larger homestead exemption from school property taxes.
The problem for Texans is that no one involved has their best interest in mind. Especially Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Patrick, who promised property tax relief on the campaign trail, shows no sign of budging.
“Property tax relief is No. 1 for me,” said Patrick. “Homeowners need relief.” [Emphasis added]
The battle puts legislative leaders at the intersection of policy and politics as they try to craft plans that make sense for the state, can be sold politically and carry clear implications for Republican leaders’ futures.
The GOP promised tax cuts and we’re doing to get them not matter the consequences. There are problems for what the GOP is trying to accomplish. Texas is a low tax state for most of their campaign donors – the wealthy. Therefore it’s hard to show them a huge windfall when they’re already taxed at a low rate. Many of the GOP politicians seem hell bent on cutting property taxes for partisan political reasons.
It’s a tax break that is likely to disproportionately benefit the Republican base. And, therefore, I think it appeals to Republicans,” Henson said.
Republicans and Democrats who support property tax relief say they are responding to people who are under intense pressure from rising bills.
“The public has been crying out for property tax relief,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. “I have had no one cry out for sales tax relief.”
Political pressure for property tax relief is being exerted on the right.
JoAnn Fleming of Grassroots America said tea party voters – and voters in general – will look for alternative candidates if Abbott, Patrick and other officeholders do not keep their promises.
“Taxes are not something that people think is a comedy routine. They don’t think it’s funny when elected officials do a flip-flop on taxes,” she said. “We want to see property tax reductions.”
“Lower gasoline prices are a welcome idea, but people forget that they’re not a long-term supplement to spending,” Piegza said. “This economic recovery was built on energy jobs. Would you rather have a job or lower gasoline prices? It’s not apples to apples.”
For the first time this year, the state’s job losses were widespread, not just focused in oil and gas and manufacturing, said Orrenius. “Initially the lower oil prices had a concentrated impact, but now it’s spreading to the service sector and construction,” she said.
While the Texas economy is not likely to be affected as much by the oil shock as it was in the 80’s it will still an effect. And what looks to be starting to show is that the oil boom that fueled our economy for so many months is over and the effects are seeping into all areas of our economy. Which makes it a precarious time for budget writers and tax cutters.
I just wish there was a political party out there that would stand against these cuts and not be a wishy-washy supporter of something like what is being proposed.
Some senators have not ruled out a sales tax cut.
Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, said the state has created an over-reliance on property taxes and people are being squeezed as a result.
“I’m surprised that a sales tax cut is on the table because we’ve just never talked about it. And I’m pleased that we’re talking about it,” he said.
There’s a new “Dirty Thirty” in Austin, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs pulls back the curtain on the so-called Texas House Democrats who voted with the Republicans to overturn municipal fracking bans. Surprise: it’s all about the money, specifically campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.
Texas Leftist noted (a few weeks back, but who’s counting) on the recent designation of Interstate 69 get I through Houston and Harris County, and the economic impact expected.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme was extremely disappointed to hear Leticia Van de Putte use a fundamental Republican talking point to blow off non-discrimination ordinances. I want my money back from her Lieutenant governor’s race.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
The groups recalled billions of dollars worth of cuts to public education and other programs that occurred during tough economic times in 2011, when then-state comptroller Susan Combs issued an erroneously low revenue estimate.
The group said in their letter that they are “concerned that the nearly $5 billion tax cut proposals you are currently considering would place the state on a path to the kind of deep, harmful cuts to basic services that were enacted in 2011…. Texas must be prepared for the natural ups and downs of the economy, particularly today as sales tax growth slows and oil prices remain low.”
Unless the tax cuts are temporary, or the rainy day fund is made available, “the next economic downturn will leave Texas without the revenue necessary to meet the needs of our growing state and risk another round of deep cuts to basic services,” the groups said.
Backers of the tax cuts have said Texas has enough money to meet key priorities while still reducing levies, and that it’s appropriate to return money to taxpayers in relatively flush times.
The groups backing Monday’s letter include the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Austin Voices for Education and Youth, Center for Public Policy Priorities,
Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living, Foundation Communities, Grassroots Leadership
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter.
Also signing on to the letter are North Texas Job with Justice, Pastors for Texas Children, Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, San Antonio Nonprofit Council, SEIU- Texas, Texans Care for Children, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas AFT, Texas National Nurses Organizing Committee, Texas Organizing Project, Texas Public Interest Research Group, Texas State Employees Union, Texas State Teachers Association, Voices for Children of San Antonio and Workers Defense Project.
Let’s not forget that along with Combs’ bad budget estimate, the last GOP tax scheme, which created a structural deficit, made those cuts harsher as well.
First some context. I supported Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008. A main reason was that I wanted some new blood in Washington. Then Obama selected Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff…enough said.
All of that is to say that no one we elect in 2016 is going to bring about the necessary change we need, our political system is too corrupt. That being said, any Republican will be worse then any Democratic candidate we can elect.
The only way we will get the change we need is when the people of this country demand it. My fear is that it will likely take a crisis worse then what we saw in 2008 to bring that about.
Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee in 2016 and is the best candidate running by far right now. Here’s Clinton’s announcement video.
So far the message has populist tones, which is good.
While there are other candidates I would prefer none of them are electable in our current corrupt system. Elizabeth Warren can do much more in her role in the Senate then she could becoming a rival of Clinton.
Bernie Sanders on the other hand I would like to see run just to keep Clinton honest during the primary on issues important to those of us on the left. As you’ll see in this video, Sanders will run a campaign about the issues important to the country and not a nasty campaign. He also does a really good job of pointing out the GOP’s cruel agenda.
You can make a perfectly reasonable argument for leaving the money alone, which is apparently what’s going to happen during this legislative session. But isn’t it strange that none of those statewide officials and legislators has come up with some fantastic scheme for all that cash? No big dreams? It could be a genuinely big tax cut, a transportation plan, funding for more water projects or public schools, or whatever.
The lack of such a plan is a tiny piece of evidence that none of the people serving in Texas government really wants to write a chapter in the history books. Method, motive and opportunity — all of the elements of crime and government — are present here.
The problem the GOP will have in the long run with these tax cuts will far out weigh any success. The tax cut to average, non wealthy, Texans will be negligible at best. While the problems caused because of them will be easy for all to see.
The GOP, as it is currently run in Texas, is incapable of using the current budget conditions to set Texas on a road to long term success. They see government as the problem and cannot fathom a way to use government to help Texans.
Wright faces nine federal charges. Prosecutors say he sold guns illegally, sold them to criminals and tried to help smuggle guns between June 2014 and February of this year.
According to ATF Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder, “This firearms trafficking investigation, which involves multiple firearms destined for Mexico, is another example of ATF’s relentless pursuit of individuals who attempt to utilize any means available to illegally appropriate and divert firearms for criminal purposes.”
Wright, 70, is also accused of falsifying information when he purchased firearms from gun stores in Georgetown and Copperas Cove. In the indictment, it says Wright filled out paperwork indicating he was the buyer of the firearms, but he was actually buying the firearms on behalf of another person. The document goes on to say Wright lied to ATF agents about when sales took place and to whom. It does not indicate if any of the weapons were used in commission of another crime. He does own a Federal Firearm License which allows him to sell guns as a dealer, and Senter said Wright did not know he was selling guns illegally or that they were bound for Mexico.
Meanwhile, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has suspended Wright. A Williamson County spokesperson said the county and its commissioners do not have the authority to remove the judge from the bench or keep him from hearing cases.
I didn’t vote for Ken Paxton, and won’t vote for him in the future. Mainly because he’s a clone of Greg Abbott and only cares about suing the federal government. But the fact that he’s an admitted criminal, who hasn’t be prosecuted for his crime, just adds to the reasons not to vote for him.
Amazingly, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office insists that the state’s top law enforcer broke no laws when he solicited investment clients without being registered to do so in 2004, 2005 and 2012 for a McKinney business. What’s amazing is that Paxton admitted in a signed statement on May 2 that he violated state securities law. The Texas State Securities Board assessed him a $1,000 fee for the administrative portion of this violation. The criminal portion was never addressed — and certainly never resolved.
How do you admit to violating the law, then have your spokesman tell the news media repeatedly that no laws were broken? Here is the full text of Paxton’s admission, which is posted on Ty Clevenger’s Lawflog.com blog. Paxton’s notarized signature appears at the bottom. Under the section title CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, Paxton acknowledges three paragraphs that explicitly state, repeatedly, that he violated state law.
Nothing in this document states or implies that the criminal aspects of his violation were resolved simply because he paid the $1,000 administrative fine. State securities law is very clear that failure to properly register while soliciting investment clients and collecting commissions fees is a third-degree felony, punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and 10 years’ imprisonment. You can read the language yourself by clicking here.
There’s an important section of the law that outlines a statute of limitations: three years from the last violation. Paxton decided to abide by the law in 2013 and register properly. The statute of limitations for his 2012 violations expires this year, which means every ticking minute brings him closer to getting off without criminal punishment for what he admits was a violation of the law.
This might help explain why his good friend and former business partner, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, appears to be in no hurry to launch a criminal investigation of Paxton. Prosecution of this case falls squarely under Willis’ jurisdiction since Paxton maintained his office and performed his securities business in Collin County at the time the violations occurred.
At the time of the violations, Paxton was an attorney and a Republican state representative. Perhaps he just goofed and simply didn’t know that he was supposed register. Those things happen. But would our now-attorney general and his friend, the Colllin County district attorney, dare to suggest that ignorance of the law is a valid excuse for breaking the law? If so, Texas could find itself at the frontier of a new breakthrough legal doctrine: the Homer Simpson D’oh legal defense to prosecution.
The best way for our attorney general to uphold the duties of his office is to stop having his spokesman deny that the law was violated or that this matter was somehow resolved. Paxton should acknowledge publicly what he did in writing: that he violated the law. The attorney general should call for a special prosecutor to handle the criminal side of his violations.
The Collin County district attorney, also being conflicted, also should defer to a special prosecutor in this case. But by stalling and talking about bringing in the Texas Rangers, Willis only adds the stink of protectionism, power and influence to these proceedings.
Please, as sworn officers of the court and professionals duty-bound to uphold the law, stop standing in the way of justice.
Everything that’s being done looks like Paxton and his buddy Willis are trying to run out the clock on this one.
It says something about the GOP Primary process in Texas that Paxton was the best candidate they could nominate. And it says something about the state of the political process in Texas that Democrats couldn’t beat an admitted criminal. But if he’s able to get away with committing a crime without punishment it says something about all of us.
Nonsequiteuse says it is time to wear orange and head to Austin (or the internet) to rally against HB 723 as the Texas House of Representatives Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee considers little word with constitutional consequences for minors who need access to safe, legal abortion services.
Last week the Texas House passed their version of a budget. There’s been quite a bit of ink and bytes spilled on, as Kuff calls it, “..a moment that would be worthy of the Daily Show and the kind of viral mockery”.
Lost in the shuffle are the dozens of missed opportunities that lawmakers had to recommend smart investments that would have moved us closer to a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure.
Failing to add General Revenue outright – and not just in Article XI – for everything from Pre-K to child protective services means that it’s the people of Texas who will lose out. And it’s clear from early drafts that the Texas Senate’s draft budget will do even less in most areas to invest in Texas’ future.
I was struck by the repeated assertions by House leaders that – as important as some of the proposed amendments were – there was simply not enough money available to fund them. Well, when you reserve billions for unspecified tax cuts, make a half a billion dollars for border security “off limits,” and leave unspent $2 billion of available revenue beneath the arbitrary spending cap, then it’s easy to claim there’s not enough money. And there’s still another $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund that House leaders are choosing not to invest.
There is certainly enough money in the budget to take care of the needs of Texans. And, as this report shows, the last thing we need are tax cuts for the wealthy in this state, Who Pays Taxes in Texas?
..households with income less than $34,161 pay almost four times as much in taxes as a percentage of income, than households with income over $147,411. Which means that the Texas households that are least able to afford it pay more in taxes as a percentage of their income, than the Texas households that could easily afford to pay more.
The more you make the less you pay, the less you make the more you pay, that’s the Texas way.
With the support of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, we’ve created customized fact sheets that outline the economic and health benefits for county residents if Texas accepts federal funds to expand health care coverage.
In Harris County, for example, expanded health care coverage would create 60,000 new jobs per year and pump up to $935 million into the county economy. Data come from recent estimates by respected Texas and national experts, including the U.S. Census, economist Dr. Ray Perryman and former Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton.
In Williamson County that would be 1,985 jobs, pump $76 million into the local economy, and cover 12,000 residents.
These numbers need to be pointed out. Not to shame our current elected leaders – that’s not possible – but to inform the public that there is an alternative.