Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted on three felony charges.
His crime was known – he had admitted to it – before he won the general election in 2014. The people of Texas knew it, or should have, and still voted for him.
His crimes were also known before he won the GOP Primary before in March of 2014. The GOP Primary voters knew it and didn’t care.
The media didn’t seem to see it as a disqualifying factor.
The Democrats were unable to do anything about it.
And we now have an indicted felon, three times over, as our Attorney General in Texas.
Kuff has the details.
It would appear from this AAS article that Williamson County GOP political squabbles are now being handled in the courts, Hearing scheduled as DA fires back at Williamson County judge.
An administrative judge ordered Monday that a hearing be held over whether District Judge Rick Kennon should be recused from presiding over a contempt of court hearing against Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty.
The order came after Duty filed a motion Friday asking that Kennon — who four years ago announced he would run against her — be removed from presiding over the contempt of court hearing against her because he is not impartial.
Kennon declined Monday to comment about Duty’s motion because the case is pending in his court.
Billy Ray Stubblefield, the presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region, said Monday that Kennon had declined to “voluntarily recuse himself,” according to a court document. Stubblefield appointed another district judge to hear the motion over whether Kennon should be recused, the document said.
Kennon filed a motion in May to hold Duty in contempt of court for violating a gag order in the Crispin Harmel capital murder case. Her contempt of court hearing has been set for July 23.
The motion that Duty filed Friday said Kennon was not impartial because he announced previously that he was running for election against her and he had also run in another race against a candidate that she actively campaigned for, the motion said. Most recently he has treated her with hostility during court proceedings in the Harmel case, the motion said. [Emphasis added]
It’s long past time for Williamson County to elect some people who are not members of the GOP. The GOP using our courts to fight their petty political battles has to stop.
Yesterday I was talking with a few people about the current legislative session. The consensus was that nothing of any consequence has been, is being, or will be done this session. My response was that they don’t want to do anything.
The people that run our state’s government are self-proclaimed government haters, believe it’s evil, and wrecks everything it touches. So what they’re doing, or rather not doing, makes perfect sense.
The GOP is likely to compromise on their signature economic proposal of this session, tax cuts. The compromise will likely be that the biggest share of tax cuts go to business, with a mere pittance going to the rest of us.
Negotiators have proposed ditching the House’s preferred sales tax cut in favor of property tax relief that would cost about $1 billion less than the version passed in the Senate, according to sources in both chambers. It would give homeowners an additional $10,000 in homestead exemptions, enough to save the average homeowner about $125 annually.
Abbott praised the $10,000 homestead exemption as a “way that we can reduce the property tax burden for Texans.”
The deal would take the House’s preferred approach to cutting the business franchise tax — a 25 percent across-the-board cut — rather than the Senate’s approach, which would combine a smaller cut in rates and a provision freeing a large number of businesses from paying any tax at all.
Ten bucks a month for the “average” homeowner. It’s not worth the future misery it will likely cause, (see below).
This sessions attempt to help public education died yesterday. Supporting public education is too liberal an issue for the Texas Senate.
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, began presenting his proposal Thursday, calling it a near-total tear down of the school finance system.
But he scrapped it after only a few minutes, saying that debate would take too long and derail too many other important bills. Aycock also noted that the Senate “almost certainly” wouldn’t even consider his measure.
“For a bill we already knew wasn’t going anywhere on the other end of the hall, there was no reason to kill all the rest of the bills on the counter to talk about that bill,” said Aycock, who also serves as the House Public Education Chairman, after he pulled the bill.
“Yes. I had suspicions that we were not going to be taking this bill all the way. I know there’s resistant on the Senate side for sure, but certainly, I thought it merited much more discussion than we were able to have with it today,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who supported the bill and Aycock’s efforts. “We spent hours last night talking about abortion and we couldn’t even spend 15 minutes it seemed like talking about how we’re going to be funding our public schools.”
Anyone who’s been paying attention since Reagan knows the reason why the GOP cuts taxes is not to give money back, but to force cuts the next time there’s a budget deficit. Via Will Francis in the FWST, Tax cuts undermine services, economy.
While Texas House and Senate budget conferees finalize the state budget, most legislators have chosen to ignore the state’s many neglected needs, focusing instead on enacting shortsighted tax cuts.
Tax cut packages range from $4.6 billion in the Senate to $4.9 billion in the House.
If approved, these tax cuts mean that, at best, the current low levels of funding for public services and programs will continue for years to come, leaving the most vulnerable Texans to pay the price.
What would happen in a worst-case scenario, if an economic downturn occurs? No one would propose raising taxes during a recession, so tax cuts now could equal budget cuts later as drastic as those in 2011. [Emphasis added]
That last part is the kicker. There’s no way our current state government, in it’s current form, would ever raise taxes in an economic downturn. It would just be more pain for most Texans.
Francis finishes by highlighting the shortsightedness and cruelty of our current state leaders.
Legislators who claim that tax cuts will stimulate the economy are overlooking the fundamentals of economic prosperity.
Tax cuts will leave our classrooms overcrowded, our colleges unaffordable, our parks deprived, our roads in disrepair and other public services neglected, which will neither spur economic growth nor provide our communities with the resources to flourish.
Tax cuts only make it more difficult to meet the needs of our growing population.
If an economic downturn occurs, the tax cuts of today will leave our future legislators with only harmful options, such as cutting funding to public services from which we all benefit.
Why would we leave the many challenges facing Texas for our children to fix, when we can get started on these very real issues now?
There are certainly much higher priorities than tax cuts, and future cruel budget cuts, for the state of Texas.
Supply side/Trickle-down economics never worked and never will for anyone but the wealthy. It’s only caused pain for everyone else. It’s long past time we stopped allowing anyone, especially our elected leaders, to continue peddling these lies.
Governor’s don’t have too much power in Texas. One they do have is spokesperson for the state. And current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made clear in that role that he will react, and take seriously, any “tinfoil hat” theory the tea party adherents in Texas may have.
So much for those who still held out hope for him, Abbott’s Letter Elevates Jade Helm 15 Concerns.
Abbott’s letter came the day after Bastrop County residents reportedly packed an information session on Jade Helm 15, quizzing a military spokesman about it while clutching signs with ominous messages such as, “No Gestapo in Bastropo.” Among the concerned citizens who turned out: Kathie Glass, a long-shot candidate for governor last year who campaigned against an “increasingly tyrannical federal government.”
“I don’t buy into some of the more extravagant claims, but I think it is not routine and it needs to be addressed, and the people need to be comforted,” Glass said of Jade Helm 15. She applauded Abbott for shining a spotlight on the issue, saying that before he weighed in, most “people had never heard about it.”
Outside the Lone Star State, though, Abbott’s move has drawn more skepticism and fueled a perception — an incorrect one, his office would say — that he is lending more credibility than deserved to a cause mostly driven by internet rumors. Asked Wednesday about Abbott’s involvement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded over fits of laughter from reporters in the room.
“I have no idea what he’s thinking,” Earnest said of Abbott, adding that the operation will “in no way” affect the civil liberties or constitutional rights of Americans.
The best that can be said of this decision is that he’s only doing it to protect his right flank from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But that’s an indictment as well, because it means he’s using the Texas National Guard for his political gain.
Abbott and the GOP have no one but themselves to blame. They’ve been going along with these folks as they head further and further off the deep end.
To show just how far this has gone, check out who else in Texas supports this, Conservatives Keep Pouring Fuel On The Texas Takeover Fire.
Rick Perry tried to tamp this down yesterday by saying that no one should ever question the military.
“It’s OK to question your government. I do it on a regular basis. But the military is something else,” said Perry, an Air Force veteran, as he prepared to speak to the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. “Our military is quite trustworthy. The civilian leadership, you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”
That is wrong too, of course, no one is above being questioned.
Of course it was not this way when George W. Bush was president. This is just, unfortunately, what has become the “Texas-way” since Barack Obama was elected President. Anything the federal government does, as long as Obama is President, they will try and use to scare people. It is, after all, why the tea party was started.
How far we’ve fallen. But first the good news. Uninsured rates plunge across Texas.
While Texas continues to lead the nation in the number of uninsured residents, the percentage lacking coverage has fallen significantly since the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace began enrollments a year and a half ago, a study released Thursday shows.
The decline, to 16.9 percent from 24.6 percent, represents a reduction of nearly a third between September 2013 and March 2015, according to findings by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
“This is a dramatic drop that’s unprecedented in Texas,” said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation and a health policy scholar at the Baker Institute. “It shouldn’t surprise me because this is what was supposed to happen. But considering the weak performance of the rollout of Healthcare.gov and the persistent drumbeat against the Affordable Care Act, I am pleasantly surprised.”
Certainly that’s good news, but let’s remember it could be better.
Some of the findings in Thursday’s report remain troubling.
As of March, Texans earning the lowest incomes remain almost four times more likely to be to be uninsured than higher-income residents.
This coverage gap has grown since 2013 because, under the Affordable Care Act, households above an established threshold can buy health insurance using subsidies and those below it were supposed to be picked up by an expansion of the Medicaid program, said Vivian Ho, chair in health economics at the Baker Institute and a Rice professor of economics. She co-authored the report.
Texas is one of 21 states whose leaders chose not to expand Medicaid coverage.
“Texas’ decision not to expand Medicaid leaves those at the lowest income levels with few coverage options,” the report said. The study further concluded that unless the state reverses its decision or finds another way to get coverage for the poor, they “are likely to remain uninsured.”
The 31 percent decrease in the rate of the uninsured in Texas is similar to drops in other states that did not expand Medicaid coverage, the report said. But it remains lower than the nation, which as a whole saw a 41 decrease, and “well below the rate of change for states that expanded Medicaid,” the report said. Those states had a 53 percent average reduction in the number of uninsured.
Remember how bad Obamacare was going to be? Paul Krugman wrote about it last week, Nobody Said That.
Go back to 2013, before reform went fully into effect, or early 2014, before the numbers on first-year enrollment came in. What were Obamacare’s opponents predicting?The answer is, utter disaster. Americans, declared a May 2013 report from a House committee, were about to face a devastating “rate shock,” with premiums almost doubling on average.
And it would only get worse: At the beginning of 2014 the right’s favored experts — or maybe that should be “experts” — were warning about a “death spiral” in which only the sickest citizens would sign up, causing premiums to soar even higher and many people to drop out of the program.
What about the overall effect on insurance coverage? Several months into 2014 many leading Republicans — including John Boehner, the speaker of the House — were predicting that more people would lose coverage than gain it. And everyone on the right was predicting that the law would cost far more than projected, adding hundreds of billions if not trillions to budget deficits.
What actually happened? There was no rate shock: average premiums in 2014 were about 16 percent lower than projected. There is no death spiral: On average, premiums for 2015 are between 2 and 4 percent higher than in 2014, which is a much slower rate of increase than the historical norm. The number of Americans without health insurance has fallen by around 15 million, and would have fallen substantially more if so many Republican-controlled states weren’t blocking the expansion of Medicaid. And the overall cost of the program is coming in well below expectations.
One more thing: You sometimes hear complaints about the alleged poor quality of the policies offered to newly insured families. But a new survey by J. D. Power, the market research company, finds that the newly enrolled are very satisfied with their coverage — more satisfied than the average person with conventional, non-Obamacare insurance.
This is what policy success looks like, and it should have the critics engaged in soul-searching about why they got it so wrong. But no.
Notice the sky did not fall. Quite the opposite actually, things have turned out pretty well. And as Krugman says there’s been no accountability for all the bad prognosticating.
You see, in a polarized political environment, policy debates always involve more than just the specific issue on the table. They are also clashes of world views. Predictions of debt disaster, a debased dollar, and Obama death spirals reflect the same ideology, and the utter failure of these predictions should inspire major doubts about that ideology.
And there’s also a moral issue involved. Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.
In that vein I give you state Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown).
Since its passage in 2009, Americans from every walk of life have come face-to-face with the stark realities of Obamacare: millions of health insurance policies cancelled, skyrocketing premiums, rising deductibles, and the frustration felt by anyone attempting to purchase coverage through HealthCare.gov. Obamacare’s top-down, Washington-first mentality has been an unmitigated disaster for the American healthcare system. You deserve the right to make your own healthcare choices, and no government has the right to interject itself between you and your doctor.
Now that we know most of that is now wrong, why would we trust what he’s saying about Medicaid expansion? Elected official’s like Schwertner can no longer be trusted on this issue. For them it’s only about ideological purity. There is no longer a valid argument against expanding Medicaid in Texas. Failing to do so just perpetuates unnecessary cruelty.
The CPPP has just released a report on the state of Medicaid expansion in Texas, Closing The Coverage Gap, and how the Lege is, again, ignoring it.
As we’ve seen again recently the GOP in Texas is now run by the wing nuts, and the semi-sane Republicans are no longer able to do anything about it, aka, pandering to idiots.
Hello Democrats, opportunity is knocking.
Here’s an analysis from Ross Ramsey on the Texas GOP’s inability to deal with the current budget situation, Analysis: Big Money, Little Ideas in Legislature.
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.
I think he’s wrong. The GOP does have a “fantastic scheme for all that cash“, that at this point seems likely to pass, and will cause Texas huge problems in the future.
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.
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”.
But the true derision should be saved for the kind of immoral legislating that the Texas GOP craves. Via the CPPP, Texas House Budget: The Day After.
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.
The House budget emerged from the floor debate without accounting for cost increases in health and human services, fully restoring state aid for public education or other things a more responsible budget would do. Tuesday night was a long and sleep-deprived evening for those of us who followed the House budget debate. But it’s the missed opportunities that won’t let us rest easy in the weeks ahead — not as long as there’s still a chance to improve the final outcome.
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.
The budget and likely tax cuts will do nothing to change that slogan. Texas will continue to shun Medicaid expansion, only making things worse for those who are not wealthy, no matter the cost to the state and local communities.
Do you know how many local jobs would be created in your county if Texas closed the health care Coverage Gap? It’s easy to find out with our new fact sheets for every county in Texas.
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.
This is a very interesting comment from GOP Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. It’s related to the disastrous lack of oversight at the HHSC under Kyle Janek.
House Speaker Joe Straus is asking lawmakers to develop a comprehensive solution to the state’s contracting woes, in light of what he called a “troubling” new report on more such problems at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Straus said the latest audit illustrates a “systemic problem across all of state government.” With more agencies relying on the private sector, he said, it appears those agencies “lack the resources or expertise to effectively negotiate and implement these contracts.”
“The policies and procedures for awarding these contracts are too often sidestepped, and oversight is too often incompetent or non-existent,” the Republican said in a statement, his most in-depth comments on the topic to date.
In other words we’ve turned our government services over to the corporations. That’s likely not what Straus meant.
And folks who were involved in doing that – like former GOP state Sen. Kyle Janek – don’t seem to think there needs to be oversight. You know, if we run our state like a business and let the free market take care it!
The reason those agencies don’t have the necessary resources and expertise is because the GOP Lege has been gutting agency budgets for at least a decade. Just ask Sid Miller. The folks who pay for their campaigns don’t wont oversight, so we’re not getting oversight.
As has been said here many times, this is what happens when we elect people who believe the government is the problem and can’t do anything good for the citizenry. They will do everything they can to prove it.
This little nugget is tucked into SJR 1, the constitutional amendment for the Senate’s property tax cut bill.
and prohibiting the imposition or collection of a tax on the conveyance, including by sale, lease, or other transfer, of an interest in real property.
A constitutional amendment prohibiting a sales tax on real estate transactions.
Last week Ross Ramsey told us what was going to happen, Killing a Tax Without Saving Taxpayers a Dime.
Careful readers will find an Easter egg tucked in one of the tax measures approved by a Senate committee this week — a mostly unmentioned clause that would constitutionally ban taxes on real estate transactions.
Don’t count your savings: Texas doesn’t even have a tax on real estate transactions.
Texas is one of the 13 states without a tax on real estate transactions; a constitutional ban would prevent future lawmakers from imposing one without voter approval.
It would make your friendly neighborhood Realtor happy, however. And it is especially delicious for the Texas Association of Realtors, the trade association for real estate agents and a wealthy and generous donor to political campaigns. For this industry, any talk of taxing home and building sales, leases and other transactions is a cardinal threat.
Not a bad idea to get all the real estate agents on your side when you’re trying to pass a property tax swap scheme that will have little effect on most homeowners.
The reason this is interesting is because last week many in the Texas business community pushed back on the Senate’s tax plan, Business groups say tax plan needs to make state needs priority.
Major business groups pushed back Friday against a multibillion-dollar package of tax cuts advancing in the Texas Senate, calling it inequitable and saying state needs should be funded before lawmakers consider tax relief.
The criticism highlights how, despite support for tax cuts among Republican legislative leaders, details are far from settled and are prompting dissension among lawmakers and businesses.
It also echoes concerns from some leading lawmakers that the emphasis on tax cuts could imperil efforts to address such issues, as education, transportation, state debt and pension programs.
And this week those in the real estate business in Texas pushed back on them.
Well-funded and vocal opposition to these measures show little regard for homeowners who are crippled under our current property tax system. Or for any business, especially small businesses, who are working within a tax system that stifles business expansion and economic opportunities.
Furthermore, in objecting to these tax relief measures the opposition boldly state lawmakers should protect infrastructure and special interests needs first: “If there is any money left over, it is appropriate to consider tax relief.”
While we support long-term infrastructure needs in Texas, we feel it is time to put home owners and business interests at the forefront of any public policy debate and not as a trickle down afterthought.
Didn’t see that coming. Pretty soon, if we aren’t careful, all taxes will be constitutionally banned in Texas. Which has been the plan all along.
It’s becoming clear that Texans don’t like the way the GOP is governing our state. At the local level, where people live, they actually need a government that works for them. And the GOP at the state level is reacting against that.
And the most interesting part is that those who are making the noise are local elected members of the GOP. Cue GOP Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis. Texas Cities Are Worried Republicans Pushed Tax Cuts Too Far.
Texas’s Williamson County hired hundreds of workers and ran up debt as it became home to two of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. cities. Now, state tax cuts threaten to crimp the revenue it needs to pay for the expansion.
“It scares the fool out of me,” said Dan Gattis, a judge who helps oversee the budget for the county, an area north of Austin where farms gave way to congested roads as the population almost doubled since 2000. “It takes so much money to run county government. We’ve got to have some way to pay the bills.”
City and county officials said the revenue is needed to make up for lack of money from the state, which ranks 48th in spending per resident, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Localities have borrowed to fill the gap. Of the 10 most-populous states, only New York has more local debt per resident, according to figures from the Texas Bond Review Board. The debt of Texas local governments swelled by 75 percent over the past decade, according to the state’s figures, as officials poured more money into public works.
Williamson County is among them. An influx increased its population by almost 90 percent since 2000 to 471,000. Two of its cities — Cedar Park and Georgetown — were among the 10 fastest growing in 2013, according to the Census Bureau.
Its payroll has swelled 40 percent since 2003 to about 1,500 employees. Jail bookings are up 50 percent. Even the county’s miniature train has seen its ridership increase by more than one third since 2007. In 2013, Williamson County voters approved a $315 million bond for roads and parks.
“The state is not appropriating the money,” said Gattis, the county judge.
With population growth comes the need for more infrastructure, etc.. to support that population. What this shows is that the Texas GOP is perfectly willing to accept all the property and sales taxes those people pay, but they have no desire to meet the needs of the people in this state.
Our state leaders over the last 15 – 20 years have neglected their responsibilities and have left cities and counties not choice but to fend for themselves.
Local governments were anticipating the intrusion from Texas officials. Governor Greg Abbott, a 57-year-old Republican who took office in January, has said cities have gone too far in passing local measures, including bans on plastic bags and cutting trees on private property. He said such developments were threatening to “California-ize” the state with unneeded regulations.
Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, said cities should be left to manage their own money.
“Mayors rub elbows with citizens in grocery stores and churches every day,” he said. “They’re closer to the pulse of constituents than any other form of government. That’s the epitome of conservative government right there.”
It appears that using the tools available to them at the local level has made the GOP in The Lege mad, The HB 540 Nanny Bill makes cities ask permission of the state.
The HB 540 Nanny Bill requires home rule cities to ask for the Attorney General’s permission before passing a municipal ordinance. This bill was filed by Rep. Phil King in retaliation of the Denton vote to ban fracking.
The city of Alpine went on record against the GOP Nanny Bill. Most, if not all, cities in Texas agree and would rather not have to ask the state for permission before they pass a law. And they think President Obama’s a tyrant?
The people of Texas need government to be on their side. As their needs go unmet by the state they will look for other ways to get their needs met. Corporate owned Republicans and, unfortunately, some Democrats will have to overreact with bills like HB 540 when their campaign donors wishes are reversed or not met at the local level.
They’re for local control as long as they control the locals.
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