10.14.14

Must See TV – Great Ads From Mike Collier and Sam Houston

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014 at 9:26 am by wcnews

Likely the best campaign ad of this election cycle is this one from Democratic candidate for Texas Comptroller Mike Collier.

Crooked Ken Paxton. In the race for between Democrat Sam Houston and Republican Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General this year, every Texan must know before they vote on November 4th that Ken Paxton Broke the Law.

It’s truly stunning that the Texas GOP is allowing him to stay on the ballot.

10.13.14

TPA Blog Round Up (October 13, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 7:39 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the advance of marriage equality and looks forward to the day when it comes to our state as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff published his interview with Mike Collier, Democratic candidate for Comptroller.

Libby Shaw writing for Daily Kos wants to make sure Texas women voters remember in November. this ad about a guy in a wheelchair on teevee last week. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that people observing Texas politics that don’t live in Texas just don’t get it.

As crunch time arrives, Texas Leftist wants voters to know just how far out in the political fringe we have to put Republican Dan Patrick. So far out, this week he started running against Rick Perry. Plus, don’t miss my interview with the only sensible candidate in the Lt. Gov. race, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Of all the bad GOP statewide candidates, and there are many to choose from, Ken Paxton may be the worst, GOP AG Candidate Ken Paxton’s Legal Predicament, Will He Be indicted?

Vote this November with CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme if you want Latinas treated with dignity, people of African descent given life-saving efforts when ill, and Texas women to have proper health services.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money Owned Political System wrote about the two ebola cases in the United States. BAOFMOPS is one of many worthy pages to review at NeilAquino.com.

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

Unfair Park tallies the cost of assuaging irrational fears about Ebola.

Mark Phariss, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to overturn Texas’ ban on same sex marriage, urges the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to schedule oral arguments in that case already.

Nonsequiteuse reminds us that sneakers are made for blockwalking as well as filibustering. Pink is optional.

Christopher Hooks provides another example of Breitbart Texas being stark raving loony.

The Lunch Tray wrote a piece for the New York Times on the ongoing school lunch wars.

The TSTA Blog highlights another education cutter seeking to get back into office.

Greg Wythe teases his return with a promised look at how the early vote is going.

Mustafa Tameez condemns Dan Patrick’s “irresponsible” border ad.

Juanita speaks as a person with disabilities about that Wendy Davis ad.

Finally, the TPA congratulates Grits for Breakfast on its tenth anniversary of blogging.

10.12.14

The Davis Wheelchair Ad – Justice

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, Uncategorized at 10:26 pm by wcnews

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. This isn’t the first time Abbott has been attacked on this issue. It’s a pretty simple issue. Greg Abbott thought suing was fine when he was hurt, but pulled the rope up behind him so no one else could get the financial assistance he received. Via the Texas Tribune, Davis Pollster: Controversial Wheelchair Ad Working.

Davis pollster Joel Benenson, who advised Barack Obama in both of his presidential races, said the ad underscored the theme they’ve been hammering on for months: that Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is an “insider” who sides with the rich and powerful over average Texans.

Asked about the use of the wheelchair in particular, Benenson noted that Abbott himself had “prominently featured himself in the wheelchair in his ads” in the Texas governor’s race.

“This ad is not about Greg Abbott in a wheelchair,” Benenson said. “This ad is about Greg Abbott’s behavior and actions with other victims after he had his opportunity and rightly sought justice and received a substantial amount of money.”

Abbott was injured in a freak accident while jogging in 1984. He was struck by a tree and left paralyzed from the waist down. Abbott later sued the homeowner and the tree company and received a multi-million dollar settlement.

The ad suggests Abbott is a hypocrite for seeking justice for himself in the court system while using his power as a judge and later attorney general to deny it to others, including a rape victim and a woman whose leg was amputated.

And all the pearl-clutching on the from the right wing is much ado about nothing. They’re just jealous they can’t do the same.  The ad is not making light of Abbott’s disability.  The ad points out that he is unwilling to show the same compassion for others that was shown to him.

The ad is called “Justice” and ends with the line “Greg Abbott, he’s not for you”.  Conservatism has always been a selfish ideology built on the premise that “I got mine, you get yours”.  That Abbott embodies that to a tee, is what the wheelchair ad is highlighting.

Further Reading:
Brains and Eggs, Wheelchair ads.

10.10.14

Voter ID Ruling Follow Up, Preclearance Bail-In

Posted in Around The State at 1:16 pm by wcnews

The discrimination was so blatant in the Texas Voter ID ruling that if could have a long lasting effect on Texas, The Biggest Aspect of the Texas Case: Texas To Be Covered Again by Section 5 (If Case Stands).

Justin noted a key aspect of the Texas id decision which I want to highlight: “Also extremely important: the court expressly finds intentional discrimination relevant to bail-in under the Voting Rights Act, and says it will consider a bail-in order in the days to come.  If the court indeed follows up with a bail-in order, Texas could become the first state brought back under a preclearance regime since Shelby County.”

[...]

If this works, it will be very important because it would mean that a variety of changes, such as voter id laws, registration laws, and redistricting, would again be subject to federal approval (either DOJ or a three judge court in DC).  Preclearance is a big stick for the federal government.

In Shelby County, 4 Justices said that preclearance had to be tied to current conditions to be constitutional. (Justice Thomas would have gotten rid of preclearance even for bail in). 4 Justices believe preclearance even under the old rules is ok. If the TX trial court has made credible findings that Texas has engaged in intentional racial discrimination in voting, even the conservative Justices could agree to preclearance. But that’s no sure bet, and you can be sure that Texas will litigate this question very, very hard.

The Texas GOP setting voting rights in Texas back 40 years.

10.09.14

Boom! Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

Posted in Around The State at 9:28 pm by wcnews

Everything bad about the Voter ID law that was known when it passed has now been ratified by the courts. And worst of all, it’s a poll tax.

Less than two weeks before the start of early voting, a federal judge ruled the state’s photo voter ID law unconstitutional late Thursday and ordered state officials to drop the new requirements.

“The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi wrote in a 147-page opinion. “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.

So no voter ID nonsense this November.

10.08.14

A Reminder Of Why Toll Roads Are Making Our Transportation Problems Worse

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Transportation at 3:57 pm by wcnews

austin+trafficVia TribTalk, The trouble with toll roads in Texas.

But unfortunately, especially in Texas, tolls tend to be introduced for the wrong reasons. When elected leaders aren’t willing to fix major transportation funding problems, tolling can appear to create money out of thin air while actually wasting tax dollars and leading to poor decisions about what transportation projects to build and how to manage them.

The chief reason most toll projects get built is because the money used to build them is “off budget,” meaning it doesn’t appear on the state’s budget and revenue doesn’t come from general taxes. Politicians want to build new public works, repair infrastructure and get their picture taken at ribbon cuttings, but they also fear losing their jobs if they propose raising taxes to pay for these things. Texas lawmakers last session passed legislation that, if approved by voters in November, is expected to redirect billions of dollars over the next decade from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for transportation. But it won’t come close to fixing budget shortfalls.

Tolling raises revenue from the public akin to taxes or fees but uses off-budget private concessions or quasi-public agencies to collect the money and borrow against future tolls. The borrowing doesn’t count as public debt, and thus the costs seem to disappear, especially when public-private partnerships act as a middleman. It’s government accounting fiction. In reality, the private costs of financing toll roads are far more expensive than the rock-bottom interest rates the state pays when issuing tax-free public bonds.

Off-budget tolling can thus discourage public officials from confronting transportation funding questions directly, distorting public choices and enabling politicians to take credit for shiny new roads while remaining insulated from any blame. [Emphasis added]

That exactly like what the GOP has been doing in Texas for the last 12 years. Shiny objects, in the form of extremely expensive toll roads to nowhere, and were all still stuck in traffic.

Well the GOP politicians aren’t the only ones to blame. Those of us who keep buying the same BS that they’re selling certainly deserve blame. But it’s bigger then that. As this TTI study, (referenced at the beginning of the above article), makes clear. The public doesn’t want toll roads, but they don’t want to pay for new roads either.

Texans are most supportive of timing traffic signals more effectively and doing a better job of managing accidents as strategies to help resolve regional transportation issues. Timing traffic signals more effectively was clearly identified as the highest-rated strategy. Building more toll roads was, by far, the least-supported strategy. The lack of support held true in both metropolitan areas and rural areas, as well as areas with and without toll roads.

[...]

Nearly two-thirds of Texans believe there is a need to increase transportation funding in Texas. The data suggest a majority agreement on this sentiment across all socio-economic groups. Support was strongest among more highly educated Texans and Texans that primarily use modes other than the personal auto.

[...]

Respondents were asked to evaluate specific transportation funding mechanisms such as “increasing the state fuel tax by 5 cents per gallon.” The data suggest that the least attractive mechanisms are those that are more likely to require additional spending on the part of Texans, such as those mechanisms that are linked to inflation and funded by system users. The most attractive mechanisms are those associated with fees already being paid, such as the state vehicle sales tax, but are not currently dedicated to transportation funding. [Emphasis added]

Texans hate toll roads, know we need to spend more on transportation, but balk at any real solution to raise the money needed to fix our transportation problem.  Which is the main reason we have what we have.  A transportation system stuck in the 1990’s – the last time the gas tax was raised.

The politicians, as politicians do, are telling the people what they want to hear.  And the people know it’s not possible to have new roads without raising money to pay for it.  But the people are actually fooling themselves into believing it and letting the politicians get away with it.

We can’t even raise taxes to pay for the things we need. That’s not conservative, that’s just plain stupid.  Meanwhile we’re all still stuck in traffic.

10.07.14

GOP AG Candidate Ken Paxton’s Legal Predicament, Will He Be indicted?

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014 at 8:41 am by wcnews

It’s a very real possibility that Texas GOP Attorney General nominee Ken Paxton will be indicted, whether he is elected or not.  Via Gromer Jeffers.

In May, the Texas State Securities Board said Paxton violated state law by soliciting clients, for pay, for a company that dispenses investment advice even though he had not registered with the board. He was fined $1,000. It can be a crime, but Paxton describes it as an administrative error.

“We resolved the issue in the spring,” Paxton said in Allen. “They have been saying that [indictment was possible] ever since. I continue to work on my campaign. That’s something we took care of in the spring.”

But Paxton’s Democratic rival, Houston attorney Sam Houston, said the Republican is unfit for office, a mantra that Paxton’s GOP primary opponents also tried to trumpet. He and others say it’s possible that Paxton will face criminal charges.

“He admitted to committing a felony, and he may or may not be indicted,” Houston said. “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law. He needs to answer to it.”

[...]

Paxton said he’s not worried that his securities violation would derail or affect his role as attorney general.

But his critics predict, or hope, that his admission and regulatory fine to the Securities Board will prompt a criminal investigation.

Texans for Public Justice, a Democratic-leaning group that filed the complaint that led to the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges, has also submitted a complaint against Paxton to the Travis County district attorney.

“It’s likely he did commit a felony,” said Craig McDonald, the group’s director. “Just because he entered into an agreement with regulator for a small fine and a slap on the wrist doesn’t exonerate him for the underlying crimes.”

Paxton said he hired a lawyer to help him settle the issue and hasn’t focused on it since the spring.

“Hypotheticals are tough for me. I’ve dealt with what I could deal with by resolving this in the spring,” he said of rumors about an indictment. “We wanted to make sure we were doing things legally correct, so we had a lawyer to resolve the issue. We have one ready, if anything does happen.”

McDonald conceded that filing a complaint against Paxton was a low priority for his organization. He said he did so because no other candidate or group stepped up.

“The agreement he signed in essence is a confession to breaking securities law,” he said “We were kind of surprised that no district attorney and no opponent, no one else, came forward to try to hold him accountable.”

Republican voters were unfazed by the incident. Paxton easily won a runoff against state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, to take the GOP nomination.

The base of the GOP has no problem with their nominee being an admitted criminal. That’s interesting. Erica Grieder is thoroughly confused with Paxton’s statements about his illegal actions, An Update on the AG Race.

My second point of confusion is why Paxton’s presenting himself as the victim here. I get it, as a political gambit, but this is not, let’s say, an argument one would take to appellate court. The suggestion that Paxton could possibly face indictment over actions that violated the law and that he’s already admitted to isn’t a “narrative” being pushed by political rivals. It’s a factual comment about a possibility, a possiblity that Paxton himself acknowledged to Jeffers: “We have [a lawyer] ready, if anything does happen.” It’s arguably a possiblity that should concern Republicans more than Democrats; the last time I heard someone raise a concern about this, in fact, it was a conservative lawyer, and the concern was that the looming possibility of an indictment would potentially give the federal government leverage against the Texas attorney general. And for that matter Paxton’s actual political rival–the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Sam Houston–did tell Jeffers that Paxton might be indicted, but his main point was about the action itself, the failure to register as an investment advisor: “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law.” [Emphasis added]

The GOP always loves to play the victim. This sounds like nothing more than a politician spinning bad situation and hoping enough foolish voters will by his lame explanation. It’s no secret that Paxton’s hiding as much as he can during this campaign.. He’s still likely to win and that’s the truly sad part.  It’s likely never been more true that the only reason Paxton has a chance is because he has an “R” next to his name.

His opponent, Democrat Sam Houston, will be is running to bring the Texas AG’s office back to doing what Texas need, and not just suing the federal government on behalf of campaign donors. Via Kuff’s interview with Sam Houston.

The stark contrast between Houston and his underqualified opponent has been noticed by the press, whose attentions Paxton has been diligently ducking ever since he secured the Republican nomination. Houston has been racking up the endorsements, and should have a clean sweep when all is said and done. He’ll be a breath of fresh air and a return to the original purpose of the office of Attorney General, which at one time represented the interests of the state of Texas and not just the Republican Party.

Listen to the entire interview here.  Houston is obviously the best choice for Texas.

10.06.14

TPA Blog Round Up (October 6, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 7:18 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance implores you to get a flu shot since the flu is a much bigger threat than ebola as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff began his series of interviews with statewide candidates by talking to Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate for Attorney General.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and at Daily Kos is very pleased that Wendy Davis rightfully hammered Greg Abbott for the culture of corruption that pervades Austin. TX Davis hammers Abbott on Austin’s pervasive culture of corruption.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The question remains, is something like the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal enough to get voters to change their mind about Greg Abbott and the GOP? If not then what would it take?

William Rivers Pitt wrote “an open letter to his Democratic spammer“. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs commiserates.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote an art review of the fish cleaning station at the Texas City Dike. APHV is one of many pages worthy of review at NeilAquino.com.

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

Scott Braddock shows the evidence of who’s behind some recent wingnut-on-wingnut violence. Be sure your popcorn popper is in good order, this one looks like a gift that will keep on giving.

Lone Star Q is happy to report that Dallas City Council has voted week to ban discrimination against transgender city employees.

The Lunch Tray took a stand for citizen journalism.

Hair Balls explains what pot has to do with the Harris County DA race this year.

Char Miller eulogizes his colleague John Donahue, a “gracious force for good” in San Antonio.

Nancy Sims posits her grand unification theory of Houston Mayoral elections.

The Texas Election Law Blog assesses the GAO report on how long it took to vote in 2012.

Texas Wtach wants you to understand the impact of the Texas law that shields the medical industry from accountability.

BOR points to HD94 as a below-the-radar race to watch.

Nonsequiteuse connects the dots from racing for the cure to racing for Governor.

10.03.14

Where The Race For Texas Governor Stands

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014 at 10:57 am by wcnews

This is, of course, in my opinion…FWIW.  I still don’t think much has changed from the day this race started.  The only way Wendy Davis has a chance is if a bunch of people who don’t usually show up to vote in a mid-term election show up to vote in 2014.

I keep hearing quite a bit about what’s going on at the grassroots level, and it looks and sounds impressive.  There’s talk of high interest of progressive “drip-off” voters.  There’s been a concerted effort by BGTX and other progressive groups around Texas to register new voters.  And that will soon switch to GOTV.  All good signs.

A single digit poll is certainly good news, or as Kuff called it pretty decent. One of the main issues I see with the poll for Davis and most Democrats is this.

Similar to previous Texas Lyceum Polls, Texans remain optimistic about the state their state’s economy compared to the nations’. When asked whether Texas’ economy is better off, worse off, or about the same as the rest of the country, 61 percent of respondents expressed the opinion that Texas’ economy is the better off, compared with only 10 percent who thought Texas was worse off, and the remaining 23 percent who said that it was about the same.

It’s really hard to get a massive change in the electorate at a time when so many feel they are going good economically. Think Clinton in ’92 and Obama in ’08. It’s not impossible just harder. Let’s hope yesterday’s court ruling will re-awaken those who were so inspired by Davis and Leticia Van de Putte in the Summer of 2013, to get to the polls next month.

Burka thinks with Davis’ strong debate performance on Tuesday and with more to come from the Perry/GOP slush fund, aka the Texas Enterprise Fund, that Davis has the momentum.

Republicans have the advantage in numbers, this being Texas, but Democrats seem to be somewhat resurgent, and Davis gave them a shot in the arm with her strong performance in the final debate. Abbott has to be the favorite, but this is not a particularly strong Republican ticket, and the full force of the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal has yet to be felt. It’s going to be closer than people think.

Abbott is a bad candidate and looks every bit like someone who’s been able to win office without ever being seriously tested in a campaign. But he has more money then he can spend and will be all over the TV the next month. Davis is a much better candidate and will likely get many media endorsements – for what they’re worth.

What Davis must do in the next month is show voters why they must choose her over Abbott.  Why Abbott is bad for Texas and why she is the best choice for Texas.  It’s still an uphill battle for Davis and all the Democrats.  The only way she wins is for her and all the Democratic and progressive grassroots to work harder then Abbott, the GOP, and the tea party.  And if she wins the only poll she will ever lead in is the one on Election Night.

10.01.14

Patrick, Hegar Support Higher Sales Taxes, Lower Taxes For The Wealthy

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, Taxes at 11:51 am by wcnews

One thing that was exposed as a result of the Lt. Gov. debate on Monday night was the extreme position of many in the GOP, highlighted by GOP nominee Dan Patrick, who want to make taxes more unfair in Texas.  Via Forrest Wilder.

In the same way, he hopes to win in November by promising tax reforms that he’ll be hard-pressed to deliver. He’ll decrease some unspecified number of people’s property taxes by spiking the sales tax—in other words, he’ll move the state from a tax that hurts the middle class to a tax that hurts the poor. We’re weeks away from the election, and Patrick’s already got several sessions of dubious policies he’s promised to get done next session. (Add overhauling public ed to the list.)

As Kuff reminded us in his post on the debate, the GOP tried this in 2005. But the facts of how unfair a plan like this would came out, it was too greedy even for the GOP back then.

Texas families earning less than $100,000 a year would pay about $1.1 billion more a year in state taxes, while higher-income residents would see a tax cut of $437 million under a House bill designed to cut school property taxes, a report said Tuesday.

The Legislative Budget Board’s analysis of House Bill 3 also shows that the legislation would shift a portion of the state tax burden from businesses to individuals.

And that’s the kind of scam Patrick wants to run now.  Instead of that gem the GOP wound up passing a tax swap in 2006, that created a structural deficit, but they left the sales tax alone.

Democratic candidate for Comptroller Mike Collier made this known back in the spring when his opponent Glen Hegar won the GOP primary, Hegar, who once urged “just do it” on property tax abolition, now more cautious.

During the recent Republican primary for state comptroller, state Sen. Glenn Hegar repeatedly endorsed eliminating local property taxes in Texas.

Borrowing from GOP opponent Debra Medina’s 2010 playbook, Hegar urged a shift to sales taxes to make up the more than $40 billion a year of revenue that cities, counties, school districts and other local governmental entities would lose.

Hegar, R-Katy, even suggested a very rapid transition to the new tax system. At a Longview tea party gathering in January, he told a man in the audience, “You just do it.”

This week, though, the governing implications of so massive a shift seem to have cooled Hegar’s jets.

Burying the property tax, after all, would require leaders to more than double the current rates of all state and local sales taxes.

Getting rid of the property tax, and replacing it with a much higher (at least doubled) sales tax would make an already unfair tax system in Texas, even more unfair. The GOP likes to call them consumption taxes, but these taxes fall much harder on consumers with low incomes then those at with higher incomes.

Think of it this way, and extra $20 when spending $100, if it’s raised to 20%…and extra $25 is it’s 25%. An extra $25 bucks on a grocery bill, it makes a $40 pair of shoes $50.  Who does that hurt more the single mom or the wealthy suburban family?  No property taxes will help those at the top abundantly more than everyone else.  And don’t expect them to share, Half of All Income Goes to the Top 10 Percent.

A plan like Patrick and Hegar’s would also take away local control of tax dollars, as Democratic candidate Leticia Van de Putte so aptly pointed out in the debate.  City and county governments would be left to rely on the state sales tax for money to pay police, firefighters, and first responders as well as all city and county employees.  And during an economic downturn, where sales tax plummets, the cuts could be disastrous.

The GOP’s plan has always been higher taxes on the poor and middle class, and lower taxes on the wealthy.  There is no feasible plan they will come up with that will lower taxes for Texans.  All they can hope to do is pass another tax swap scheme.  A scheme that will create a worse budget situation that they can then use to cut state spending on education, health care, roads and other infrastructure and speed us on our way to privatization.

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