The Texas Progressive Alliance is still celebrating love’s victory as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff discusses the next steps for equality advocates.
Lightseeker at Texas Kaos shares personal stories about the heartbreaking impact of overt racism. And though he has come to hate prejudice and racism with a white hot passion, Lightseeker said the time has finally arrived for sharing the truth, change and healing. Time for Truth, Change and Healing is NOW.
Lost in the earth-shaking Supreme Court developments last week was a report from a former Harris County deputy sheriff that Adrian Garcia did not tell the truth when he said he did not know about the mentally ill jail inmate in a littered, feces-filled cell over a year ago. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says it’s a headache for the Houston mayoral contender, but shouldn’t damage his prospects… unless things take a turn for the worse.
Socratic Gadfly notes that new polling from Yale shows that people concerned about global warming are NOT a minority, even in a red state like Texas, even to the point of supporting a carbon tax, and suggests there are political activism and outreach lessons to be learned.
From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. No surprise in SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare, ACA, aka, Obamacare Subsidies Upheld By SCOTUS.
Neil at All People Have Value said that the 14th Amendment–cited this week by the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage–is the product of blood and sacrifice. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Scott Braddock adds up the success rate for getting bills passed for legislators who opposed Speaker Joe Straus.
Texas Watch responds to Rick Perry’s claims about his record on health care.
BEYONDBones explains why we should eat bugs. No, really.
Juanita Jean updates us on the activities of one of Dan Patricks’s citizen advisors.
The Lunch Tray says we all have a Sid Miller problem now.
The Texas Election Law Blog highlights a respected federal judge’s change of heart on voter ID.
Better Texas Blog evaluates the legislative session.
Paradise in Hell bids an un-fond farewell to the ideals of the Confederacy.
Lone Star Ma addresses some of the crazy objections that have been made to the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision.
I never really thought this challenge to the ACA had much of a chance, and here’s whey. I’m not sure where I actually heard it, but since the 1970’s or so, SCOTUS makes it’s decisions based solely on what’s best for corporations.
From this ruling it’s pretty clear that health insurance corporations are making money on the ACA. If they weren’t this ruling would be reversed. Tax payer money going to health insurance corporations. Why in the world would they want that to end? Which is why the subsidy will continue.
Via TPM, Supreme Court Upholds Nationwide Obamacare Subsidies.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.
The justices said in a 6-3 ruling that the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 health care law.
The outcome is the second major victory for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of his most significant domestic achievement.
It’s great that millions of Americans will not lose their health care and won’t have to wait for a GOP-led Congress to act, or more likely not act.
In Texas we still have millions needlessly going without health care because the Republicans in this state won’t allow them to have health insurance.
The drop in the number of uninsured Americans has come across the economic and racial spectrum, which can be partially attributed to the expansion in Medicaid. States that expanded their Medicaid coverage had 13.3% of uninsured adults under 65 while the states that did not expand their coverage had 19.6% of uninsured adults.
Among the states that did not expand their Medicaid coverage are Texas and Oklahoma, which had two of the highest rates of uninsured adults at 25.7% and 26.6%, respectively.
Texas Republicans show no signs of changing their cruel stance on Medicaid expansion in Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was hoping that SCOTUS would have taken away health care from those that had gotten relief from the ACA, Abbott wants Obamacare gone.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday urged his fellow Republicans not to “rescue” President Barack Obama’s signature health care law if it’s torpedoed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
No matter the reason, it’s good that SCOTUS ruled the way it did. This law is better then what we had, but is not what we need. We still need single-payer and an expansion of Social Security.
The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the families and friends of the victims of the horrible shooting in Charleston as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff looks at the latest developments in the ongoing investigation against AG Ken Paxton.
Letters from Texas advises Capitol staffers how to respond to the Texas Monthly Best and Worst Legislators list.
Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the GOP for its craven use of dog whistles and thinly veiled racism. Come and Take the Truth About Playing the Race Card, GOP.
Will the outcome of Houston’s mayoral race be similar to San Antonio’s — abysmal turnout, two Democrats in a runoff, one going after Republican votes in order to win? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs would prefer almost any other scenario besides that one.
Moving towards offering an accessible and comprehensive way to view all of life, Neil at All People Have Value added a page of pictures he has taken out in everyday life to his website. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.
Socratic Gadfly says that, although the symbolism of the Confederate flag is offensive, the First Amendment protects offensiveness, and the Supreme Court got it wrong in ruling Texas can ban Sons of Confederate Veterans vanity plates.
With municipal elections looming large in the background, Texas Leftist tried to keep up with intense political theater that was this year’s Houston City Budget”… the last ever of the Annise Parker Mayoralty.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
The TSTA Blog has plenty of reasons to fear a Scott Walker presidency.
Better Texas Blog measures the impact in Texas of an adverse SCOTUS decision in King v. Burwell.
Juanita Jean marvels at the story about Texas’ own Fort Knox.
Texas Vox calls on the CFPB to end forced arbitration.
The Lunch Tray bemoans Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s decision to lift a decade-old ban on deep fat fryers in schools, ironically done as part of an initiative to fight childhood obesity.
And finally, the TPA congratulates Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast on his new gig as Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Texas.
This is pretty bleak, Taylor’s San Antonio Win a Wake-Up Call for Democrats.
On Sunday, the day after Ivy Taylor narrowly defeated former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for a full term as mayor of San Antonio, answers to that question varied dramatically. But even Van de Putte’s supporters, who played witness to her second high-profile loss in seven months, were sounding the alarm that the outcome spelled more doom for Texas’ beleaguered minority party.
“It ought to scare every Democrat in Bexar County,” said Christian Archer, Van de Putte’s campaign manager. “If you’re a Democrat and in Bexar County, you better wake up.”
“We keep putting the blinders over our eyes and saying, ‘Oh, no, no, no, it’ll go away.’ And it’s not going away,” added Archer, a veteran of San Antonio mayoral politics. “What’s not happening is the kind of turnout that we need.”
I didn’t pay too much attention to this race and thought that a long-time Democratic politician like Leticia Van de Putte would be able to win this race. But, if this is true, it’s easy to see why she lost.
To be clear, Taylor — the interim mayor and former councilwoman — was never seen as a long shot. Van de Putte was never considered unbeatable either, though her homecoming was premised on the idea that the mayoral race would be less of a climb than the lieutenant governor’s contest she lost to Dan Patrick in a landslide last year.
Taylor’s strength, meanwhile, was expected to come from a Republican-leaning coalition of voters looking to move the city further away from the era of her predecessor, Julián Castro, a period marked by an activist city government and bright national spotlight.
Van de Putte’s campaign worked hard to undermine that coalition. The candidate zeroed in on a report that Taylor and her husband were unwilling to pursue charges after a shooting at his bail bonds business, hoping to spook law-and-order voters backing Taylor. Van de Putte trotted out endorsements from elected officials representing Taylor’s native East Side, looking to cut into Taylor’s most oft-cited base of Democratic support. And at one point, a mailer surfaced that cut straight to the chase, calling Van de Putte the most conservative candidate in the race. [Emphasis added]
But none of it was enough to counteract Taylor’s crossover appeal, anchored in the chorus that Van de Putte was a career politician simply on the hunt for her next job. Both women had initially denied interest in the race, but it was Van de Putte who did so while campaigning for lieutenant governor, just two years after running for re-election to the Senate — a sequence Taylor’s campaign was happy to point out.
“She didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up,” Robinson said.
Generally speaking Democrats lose when they run as Republicans.
Any way this is sliced it’s more bad news for Democrats in Texas. The GOP outworked Democrats in San Antonio, again.
Weston Martinez, a conservative leader in San Antonio, said Taylor’s win was “delivered by the social conservatives, evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics,” groups encouraged to see she “doesn’t leave her faith at the door when she goes into the mayor’s office.” More broadly, though, he said her victory chips away at the presumption that big cities are hotbeds of solidly Democratic leadership.
“If you’re not all-in liberal, you can’t be elected” in a major city, Martinez said. “She just broke that mold.”
Van de Putte’s campaign had expected Republicans to factor prominently in the race, though Archer said Sunday the campaign may have underestimated the extent of that support. The GOP, he added, “want San Antonio to be a battleground, and they’re working hard at making that happen.”
It was the type of possibility Van de Putte raised herself the same night state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer lost the runoff for her Senate seat, according to the latter lawmaker. Martinez Fischer, who was defeated in February by then-House colleague José Menéndez, had fallen in the crosshairs of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a powerful tort reform group that attacked him in an effort to drive up GOP turnout.
“I remember her saying, ‘This could very well happen to me,'” Martinez Fischer recalled.
Yet he is not ready to draw broad conclusions about the fate of his hometown’s Democratic Party. While the mayoral race was “a little bit of deja vu all over again,” he said it provides a moment for reflection, not alarm.
“Of course voter engagement can be better, but this isn’t the end of the world for Bexar County Democratic politics,” Martinez Fischer said. “I will measure the future of the political party during a partisan race, and this clearly wasn’t one of them, but it was a clear example of voters needing to be a little more informed about candidates who hold themselves out as Democrats but run with Republicans.”
It doesn’t sound like Van de Putte gave the people of San Antonio much of an alternative from what they already have. And didn’t inspire Democrats to turnout.
The Texas Progressive Alliance is binged out on the Women’s World Cup as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff tries to predict how County Clerks and AG Ken Paxton will react to a SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the Texas Republican Party for its ideological and spiteful decisions that cheat Texas taxpayers, robbing them of paid for services. Wake up voters. TX GOP: Spite Cheats Texas Taxpayers.
A few people predicted Leticia Van de Putte’s close loss in the San Antonio mayor’s race, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found them.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know a labor bashing provision was in the Latino bashing border security bill. 50 hours a week is the new norm.
Socratic Gadfly thinks we need to drop a bomb on our entire current health care system, going beyond “single payer” to a full-blown British-type National Health System.
Nonsequiteuse is frustrated by journalists who can’t or won’t shut down wingnuts when they go into the Gish Gallop.
From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Good news out of Williamson County regarding renewable energy, Georgetown Will Be Powered 100 Percent By Renewable Energy Within The Next Couple Years.
Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of the mailbox he used to send a $50 donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.
Texas Leftist wants you to know about the 150th Anniversary of Juneteenth, and where you can go across Texas to celebrate.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Scott Braddock looks back at how the Senate operated in a non-two-thirds-rule world.
Juanita is keeping an eye on Tom DeLay as the SCOTUS same sex marriage ruling draws near.
Greg Wythe reviews the list of departing (or possibly departing) legislators so far.
Scott Metzger offers his thoughts on a recent kerfuffle between some high-end restaurants and the Silver Eagle beer distributor that has many Texas microbreweries caught in the middle.
Carmen Cruz and Annetta Ramsey argue that marriage equality matters to both gay and straight people.
BEYONDBones celebrates World Ocean Day while spreading the word about the problem of plastic pollution.
The Texas Election Law Blog critiques Rick Hasen’s criticism of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s push for voting rights reform.
Jay Crossley calls for an end to road-only bonds.
Via KXAN, Special prosecutors appointed in contempt case against Williamson Co. DA.
Last month, District Judge Rick Kennon filed a motion to hold Duty in contempt of court, accusing her of violating a gag order in the capital murder case against Crispin Harmel when she spoke to a news reporter about allegations she withheld evidence from Harmel’s defense attorneys. Harmel is awaiting a second trial for the death of Jessika Kalaher in 2009. The first ended in a mistrial when Duty was accused of withholding video evidence.
In court last week Duty also admitted to contacting KXAN after initially testifying she did not contact any other media following the gag order. Duty contacted KXAN regarding a video posted on a video-hosting web site and anonymously furnished to KXAN, and subsequently posted on kxan.com. Harmel’s defense team alleged the video depicts Duty showing animosity toward Harmel and his lead defense attorney and mocking Williamson County District Court Judges. In court, and by phone to KXAN, Duty denied having any involvement in the making of the video, which was made by a friend of her husband’s, but admitted showing the video to her staff during a weekly meeting.
On Duty’s behalf, assistant district attorney Brent Webster attempted to have the contempt charge overturned by the 3rd Court of Appeals, but was denied by the court.
The two special prosecutors appointed by Kennon are Archie Carl Pierce and Randy Howry. Pierce, a former federal prosecutor, is a shareholder with the Austin-based law firm Wright and Greenhill. Howry, a recent nominee as a candidate for president-elect of the State Bar of Texas, is a partner with the Austin-based law firm Howry, Breen, & Herman.
The contempt hearing was set for July 6 but Pierce has filed a motion to reschedule the hearing for July 13, citing a scheduling conflict.
A previous AAS article stated this as the possible punishment:
If Duty is found guilty of contempt, she could face a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.
Not sure how likely jail time is but beyond the criminal punishment, there may be political implications. Does this mean that Duty, who is up for reelection in 2016, will get a serious primary challenge? Or is this badge of courage for a GOP prosecutor in Williamson County?
This is extremely good news. For several years now I’ve been asking people to think how their life and life in general would change if energy was, in essence, free. No electricity, natural gas, gas for cars, etc.. How much money would that free up, and more important, how much time. Maybe people wouldn’t have to work so much.
Anyway, here’s the article from Think Progress about Georgetown, Texas going 100% renewable, This Big Texas City Will Soon Be Powered Entirely By Wind And Sun.
There’s a fast-growing city in Texas that also has one of the most progressive energy programs in the country — and it’s not Austin.
Located about 30 miles north of the Texas capital in a deeply conservative county, the city of Georgetown will be powered 100 percent by renewable energy within the next couple years. Georgetown’s residents and elected officials made the decision to invest in two large renewable energy projects, one solar and one wind, not because they reduced greenhouse gas emissions or sent a message about the viability of renewable energy — but because it just made sense, according to Mayor Dale Ross.
“This was a business decision and it was a no-brainer,” Ross told ThinkProgress from his office along one of the city’s main thoroughfares. “This is a long-term source of power that creates cost certainty, brings economic development, uses less water, and helps the environment.”
Ross said that a lot of “folks don’t really care what kind of electrons are flowing down the transmission lines,” they just don’t want to pay more for power. Once he explains the new setup to residents, even the most skeptical and politically conservative, they tend to come around.
“The main criticism I’ve heard about green energy is the worry that the tax credits might go away,” said Ross. “Well that doesn’t impact us because they are contractually obligated to deliver energy at that price for 25 years.”
Ross, who is a Certified Public Accountant by trade, took this idea one step further.
“And if you are really looking into that — in the tax code which industry gets the most deductions and credits of any industry out there? That would be fossil fuels. Renewable energy credits are minuscule compared to fossil fuels,” said Ross, who was elected as a Republican mayor earlier this year. [Emphasis added]
The logic of renewable energy is unassailable. The main factors working against it have been the fossil fuel industry’s power, along with the lack of infrastructure and technology. With infrastructure and technology out of the way there’s only one thing left standing in the way.
In February, Georgetown’s City Council approved the final agreement with California-based SunEdison to provide up to 150 megawatts of solar power to the city between 2017 and 2041. It is the largest SunEdison solar agreement in Texas to date. While Texan leaders such as former-governor Rick Perry have made California out to be an entrepreneurial desert, where it’s “next to impossible” to build a business, the California solar industry is far outpacing Texas in solar development. In 2014, California led the country in solar installations adding 4,316 megawatts of solar electric capacity to the grid.
For the most part, Texas lawmakers seem more focused on banning local fracking bans rather than incentivizing solar power when it comes to creating a business-friendly energy environment.
Georgetown was able to eschew any industry pressure in making its energy decisions, which Foster said were “easy” once it was determined that they met three main criteria: they were the lowest-cost source of power, they eliminated the risk of long-term price fluctuation, and they helped the city increase its renewable energy portfolio. Originally Georgetown had a target of getting 30 percent of its power from renewables by 2030.
“Part of what really shocks most people is that we did this in the middle of a shale gas boom, with energy coming from gas plants being really cheap,” said Foster. “But none of the suppliers at that price were willing to do long-term contracts — they don’t believe it will stay cheap for so long.”
Like the downfall of many industries it will be the arrogance of the fossil fuel industry that brings it down. Georgetown deserves credit for stepping up and moving forward embracing progress.
But moving forward to a time when energy costs become extremely low or, in essence, free will take even more progress. And in that manner keep an eye on the Tesla Powerwall and Solar Roadways as well.
The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy there’s no hint of any special sessions to come as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff notes that while Travis County is ready for the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, there’s likely to be no small amount of chaos in the state once they do.
Letters from Texas explains how a recent ruling in a North Carolina redistricting case may bode well for Texas’ plaintiffs.
LightSeeker at Texas Kaos calls “ethics reform” in Texas for what it is. Government is for, by and of the highest bidder. Texas leads the pack. Texas Ethical Reform – DOA.
SocraticGadfly, reading about a new study that claims classical psychological conditioning during sleep can reduce racist tendencies, has two thoughts: it’s either too good to be true, or, if it has real and lasting change, it’s probably got an element of Clockwork Orange.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad McAllen ISD and others are taking care to feed children during the summer.
Do you think Greg Abbott’s first legislative session as governor was a success or a failure? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants to know.
From WCNews at Eye on Williamson, the threat was enough for the clandestine video scheme that may have changed the game on the budget and taxes in 84th Texas Legislature, Timing Is Everything.
Neil at All People Have Value offered a framework about how to live our lives. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.
Nonsequiteuse missed the Houston Mayoral Candidates Arts and Culture Forum, but it got her thinking about getting arts organizations out of their silos and engaged as advocates for progressive change.
On her long road seeking the Presidency, one of Hillary Clinton’s greatest challenges will be to re-create the infamous Coalition of 2008. This week at Houston’s Texas Southern University, she worked hard to mend some fences, and shared some important views on Voting Rights.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Texas Watch celebrated its victories from the legislative session.
Grits can’t wait to see if the state’s new junk science writ will be interpreted broadly or not.
The Texas Election Law Blog asks if our government is supposed to represent everyone, or just everyone who is allowed to vote.
The Texas Living Waters Project warns of a new environmental danger to the Brazos River.
Molly Cox bemoans low voter turnout in San Antonio.
Keep Austin Wonky explains how percentage-based homestead exemptions help fuel inequality.
Paradise in Hell is not impressed by Rick Perry 2016.
Texans for Public Justice and Public Citizen call Greg Abbott “just plain wrong” on the matter of dark money and disclosure.
Texas Vox managed to find a few small rays of hope from the legislative session.
Equality Texas produced its report card for the 84th Legislature.
Here’s the take from a business columnist on the 84th Legislature, Thanks to Legislature, business needs go begging.
Will these efforts generate the $3.3 billion a year needed for Texas roads? No. Shipping and commuting costs will keep rising for every Texan because of poor roads, but hey, at least lawmakers can claim they didn’t raise taxes.
Lawmakers also stiffed public schools. Per-student state spending, adjusted for inflation, peaked in 2008. In 2011, legislators cut spending for the first time since World War II. Lawmakers said the financial crisis made the cut necessary, but this year when the coffers were full, the Legislature still refused to adjust per-student spending for inflation and are allowing it to slip again.
Rather than spend the additional $5 billion needed to restore per-student spending to 2008 levels, lawmakers cut property and business taxes by $4.4 billion.
On Health Care:
The smartest way for lawmakers to reduce property taxes would have been to expand Medicaid, the health program for the poor and disabled.
The big lie is what supporters call a property tax cut. The state did not cut the tax, it merely increased the homestead exemption. Homeowners will not see lower tax bills. Instead, property appreciation and rate increases mean property tax bills will still go up, they just won’t go up as quickly.
This is not an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. Texas politicians are divided between those who push an agenda of selfishness and those who promote the common good. Voters disappointed with the Legislature’s performance need to remember what happened this session in November 2016, because lawmakers are betting your frustration will fade.
He’s making the case that what is good for the people of Texas is good for Texas business. Certainly there’s more common ground to be found with Democrats in Texas on these issues then there is with the tea party. Not sure what it’s going to take for the business community in Texas to figure that out?
There wasn’t much of anything worthwhile done for the working and middle class Texans. Wages will stay at their current level. The high cost of college tuition will stay high. There will be no improvement of public education. Those in need of health care, and the hospitals struggling to treat them, are still without help.
Ethics laws were made worse, not better, The brutal death of ethics reform in Texas.
This session was supposed to be a big one for ethics. Abbott even declared it an emergency. What happened? Unlike in 1991, lawmakers didn’t rise to the challenge. Instead, they used the guise of the “ethics session” to protect themselves from public scrutiny and accountability.
We can’t expect the politicians that are elected because of the current system, to reform that system.
But the biggest and cruelest issue, by far, is the GOP’s inability to expand Medicaid, Don’t mess with Medicaid expansion? A lesson from Texas.
Texas is a huge state. It’s also leaving a huge amount of federal money on the table—and not insuring more than 1 million people—because of its opposition to Obamacare.
The decision by Texas to reject expansion of Medicaid, the government health-coverage program for the poor, will prevent the state from receiving an estimated $100 billion in federal cash over a decade, at the same time its hospitals are eating $5.5 billion in annual costs for treating uninsured people, a new National Public Radio report details.
Those uncompensated costs in turn are being covered by taxes and insurance premiums paid by the state’s businesses and residents, who are also footing the bill for expanding Medicaid in 29 states and the District of Columbia that agreed to accept federal funds to offer coverage to nearly all poor adults. The Medicaid expansion states, as a rule, have seen a marked decline in their uninsured rates and the amount of costs their hospitals incur in caring for people without insurance.
This is the government we get when 25% of the voting age population shows up to vote. Unresponsive to the needs of the vast majority of Texans, and more than willing to take care of the needs of their campaign contributors.
Lawmakers leaving Austin with little progress to show.
This Lege dramatically disappoints.
Texas Is All for Free Enterprise – Until the Lawmakers Show Up.
The American Phoenix Foundation’s (APF) clandestine video scheme may have changed the game on the budget and taxes in 84th Texas Legislature (The Lege). In April, being led by GOP state Rep. Dennis Bonnen on tax issues, the House seemed set in their bargaining position. They were for a sales tax cut and against cutting property taxes.
In early May, when the APF’s actions became known, the House’s position started to change. The video’s, we were told, show certain members in compromising situations, as well as saying things behind closed doors counter to what they say on the campaign trail.
In the end the tax and budget deal that was worked out seems to be more favorable to the Senate’s proposals. What follows is a timeline of the situation with news accounts and blog posts highlighting key events along the way.
Toward the end of April The Lege seemed deadlocked on the budget and tax cuts. It was getting really bad, as R.G. Ratcliffe reported, a Big Three Breakfast Blows Up occurred.
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.”
As the days progressed the reporting seemed to indicate that the House had the advantage going forward.
Watching the Texas House today, I found myself wondering whether it would be sacrilegious and/or offensive to thank the Lord Jesus for Joe Straus, who as Speaker of the Texas House is effectively running state government right now.
On May 5th a bombshell was dropped on The Lege. It was reported that 800 hours of covert footage of lawmakers, portraying some in an unflattering light, existed.
An Austin-based nonprofit with ties to activists arrested in the past for targeting legislators in other states has collected hundreds of hours of secretly recorded video footage of Texas lawmakers to use against them in the upcoming election cycle, a representative from the group confirmed Tuesday.
The undercover video campaign represents a new front by conservative groups to target incumbent Republicans and tilt the Texas Legislature further to the right.
The group is tied to mostly senate tea party state legislators. Things really started to get interesting was when it was reported that the videos had been turned over to Breitbart Texas.
[Managing director, Brandon Darby] said the conservative news outlet has no plans to release the video made by staffers with the American Phoenix Foundation, an Austin activist group, until after the legislative session ends June 1 because he, his fellow Breitbart Texas staffers and their legal team have to go through all of it first.
“I don’t really think that something like this coming out during the ending of the legislative session is helpful to the state at all,” Darby said.
There was now a perceived real threat of the videos coming out, and it seemed to get things moving in a different direction. Just before this GOP state Rep. Dennis Bonnen wrote an Op-Ed taking issue with lowering property taxes. The next day an article titled, House still has the upper hand, appeared. But then Bonnen made this comment, signalling a change in direction.
… House Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen said Tuesday that he’d be fine with replacing both chamber’s proposals with an even larger cut in the franchise tax paid by businesses.
Definitely a move away from the House’s previous stance, holding firm on a sales tax cut. The next day it was reported that progress is being made in the House and Senate on tax cuts.
Also on May 13th, HB 3994, the Judicial Bypass bill, passes the House. Tea party issues are starting to move. The next day state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s school finance bill dies, a bill the tea party was against.
On May 19th, R.G. Ratcliffe posts a multi-part article on the founders of the APF. That day the sales tax is scrapped in the House. Two days later the donors of the APF are outed.
On May 24th the House passes a tax plan, without a sales tax, and including a property tax. The next day Texas Monthly’s Erica Greider writes a post titled, Did the House Get Rolled on the Budget?
Last week, after the budget conference committee started laying out its compromise agreement, the general impression around the Lege seemed to be that on the single most important bill of the session, the House had been steamrolled by the Senate. The conferees, in keeping with the stated priorities of Dan Patrick and the Senate, had agreed to include about $1.3bn for property tax relief and about $800m for border security over the forthcoming fiscal biennium. They also stuck with the Senate figure for public education—an additional $1.5bn compared to the 2014-15 biennium, as opposed to the $2.2bn the House had authorized in its version of the budget. The conferees also abandoned a House provision on Medicaid: the lower chamber had proposed an additional $460m for Medicaid reimbursement payments (in an effort to encourage more doctors to accept Medicaid payments), the Senate had not, and the conference committee abandoned the idea.
That’s quite a change from the end of April.
And on May 26th this was reported, Breitbart Texas Will Not Publish Lawmaker Videos.
“At this time, I am not publishing it, correct,” Darby told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday.
Darby did not elaborate on why he has changed his mind about the supposed 836 hours of video the American Phoenix group has been made of lawmakers since the group began filming in and around the Texas Capitol last December.
Two weeks ago, Darby told the Tribune that Breitbart had a copy of the video footage and had planned to publish it after the legislative session ends on June 1.
“Some of it is very newsworthy,” Darby had said this month.
Asked Tuesday if he stood still by that assessment, Darby said: “I really think my initial description still stands. But I think it’s best for them to talk about their own footage.”
Joe Basel, president and chief executive of American Phoenix, said the door isn’t closed on having Breitbart Texas publish the video.
“They’re certainly welcome to it,” Basel said. “But there’s a lot of people asking for it, including national partners.”
Basel said he’s viewed less than 1 percent of the video his organization has recorded so far and insists it’s more than newsworthy.
“I think a lot of people will re-evaluate their career in public service after this,” Basel said.
He left out, “… if they know what’s good for them.”
The Texas Observer’s Christopher Hooks sums up what likely happened very well.
There could be no better symbol of the ways Austin’s political culture has deteriorated than the news that a sneak of weasels calling themselves the American Phoenix Foundation—conservative activists who at the very least, have a number of mutual friends with the consultants who back Senate right-wingers like Burton, Hall, and Huffines—have been going around the Texas Capitol making secret recordings of legislators as they go about their business.
They claim to have some 800 hours of recordings, excerpts of which Breitbart Texas says it will release after the session. They’ve been walking around the halls of the Capitol, and around Austin, with cameras, hoping to entrap legislators. They’ve harassed reporters. Once their cover was blown, they’ve taken to using their presence to intimidate capitol-goers, offering false bravado in verbal form. They seem to use fake names, and their website lists a fake address. They’re creeps.
It’s the ultimate manifestation of the permanent campaign. The recordings themselves, and the recorders themselves, are almost certainly less impressive than they let on. But even if they caught nothing important, their presence deteriorates relations and trust between legislators further.
On May 30th the Texas Tribune posted this, On Most Visible Budget Disputes, Senate Fared Better.
On most of the high-profile disputes, the Senate won out. The $209.4 billion budget that both chambers approved Friday includes property tax relief over sales tax cuts, as the Senate wanted. It does not include the House’s request for higher payments to primary care doctors who treat patients on Medicaid, the joint federal-state insurer of last resort for the poor and disabled. It does include funding to keep the Texas Army National Guard on the border until the Department of Public Safety is considered fully staffed in the region, which the Senate had sought.
It’s possible the APF never intended to show any of these videos, at least not to the public. If the videos had been publicly aired their leverage would be gone. Their ability to effect change, or as they say disrupt the narrative, would be gone too. Better to keep the video secret and keep their leverage.
There’s no way to know, for certain, if the APF video scare had any effect on the legislative process. The timing makes it seems likely. No matter, they showed up and for several weeks and dominated the news coverage in Texas. And now, looking at the news coverage, it’s almost as if they never existed.
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