To Expand Medicaid in Texas, Those Without Insurance Must Vote

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, Health Care, Uncategorized at 8:20 am by wcnews

There’s really no other way to put this.  If you’re in the “coverage gap” – someone who doesn’t have health care because Perry and the GOP declined to expand Medicaid in Texas – and don’t vote, then you’re choosing not to have health care coverage.

If Texas was included the headline below it would read “GOP Losses In 6 States Could Bring Coverage To 2.5 Million Uninsured“.

Instead it says this, GOP Losses In 5 States Could Bring Coverage To A Million Uninsured.

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion has lately been making progress in unlikely places like Wyoming, where Republicans are being slowly swayed by business groups that it is a good financial deal for their state. But the quickest way to bring Medicaid expansion to the 23 states that have declined it so far would be a new state legislature or governor.

The former can be a little harder to anticipate. And according to some handicapping by Governing magazine’s Lou Jacobson, it doesn’t look like any legislatures are going to flip in a way that would have serious repercussions for Medicaid expansion, anyway, absent a change in the governor’s house. Gubernatorial races, on the other hand, get a lot of national attention and as the head of the executive branch, governors have an outsized influence on the fate of Medicaid expansion.

There are 1.4 million uninsured Texans who would have health insurance if Perry and the GOP would have allowed Medicaid expansion in Texas.

But the reality is that if the Democrats were to win statewide race(s) in Texas there would likely be legislative coattails as well.  Which means they would likely win some seats they didn’t think they would.  Still not enough to change control, but enough to change how the state is governed.  And if all those who were without health insurance would vote it would happen.

The first step to fixing this is electing Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte.


Greg Abbott Is No Rick Perry

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 11:00 am by wcnews

GOP nominee Greg Abbott is, in many ways, running like he’s running for Rick Perry’s fourth term.  But Greg Abbott is no Rick Perry.  Perry, for as much as there is to dislike about him, had most, if not all, of the mainstream Texas media in his back pocket.  He knew how to stroke them, and make them purr like kittens and do his bidding.  Abbott seems to assume he’s built the same rapport, but he hasn’t, and it’s getting painfully obvious.

As Kuff points out with his latest on the debate issue Abbott is having, Abbott keeps moving the debate goal posts.

WFAA President and General Manager Mike Devlin said the station will no longer pursue the debate because of Abbott’s unwillingness to cooperate.

“We expect people running for the governorship to behave in an honorable fashion,” Devlin said. “At a certain point when you are dealing with somebody who doesn’t keep commitments, why would we keep going back?”

After backing out of the WFAA debate Friday, Abbott agreed to another Dallas debate on Sept. 30 hosted by KERA, NBC5/KXAS-TV, Telemundo 39 and The Dallas Morning News. However, Davis did not agree to that debate because she had already committed to the WFAA event, the Davis campaign said Tuesday. But in a statement issued later Tuesday, Petkanas said the campaign “will open discussions with KERA tomorrow regarding the possibility of a debate.”

Emphasis mine. Can’t really say it any better than that, though the full statement from Zac Petankas is worth highlighting as well:

“If Greg Abbott isn’t tough enough to handle a roundtable discussion in front of a statewide audience, it’s hard to see how he’s tough enough to be Governor of Texas,” said campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas. “However, the fact that Greg Abbott isn’t willing to keep his word shouldn’t deprive voters of the chance to see both candidates debate issues like his defense of $5.4 billion in public education cuts. In that spirit, we will open discussions with KERA tomorrow regarding the possibility of a debate.”


Perry was able to make his non-debating strategy about his opponent – Bill White’s tax returns – no matter how unjustified it was.  In Abbott’s case he’s not fighting with his opponent, but with a media outlet.  And it makes him look weak and petty, and it’s likely pissing off the media that Rick Perry manipulated so well.

When it comes to debate ducking, Greg Abbott is no Rick Perry.


The GOP’s Ongoing Plan To Keep The Voting Populace Low

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Corruption, Elections at 9:51 am by wcnews

“..our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
- Paul Weyrich, “father” of the right-wing movement and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation

If you were not paying attention to state news over the holiday weekend, (And who could blame you?), you may have missed the DMN story on Texas AG Greg Abbott’s years-long scheme to sabotage minority voter registration efforts.  It’s the latest chapter in the Texas GOP’s goal to keep the voting populace low, Abbott’s Houston raid didn’t end with arrests, but shut down voter drive.

The most egregious part of this is that they never even prove anything illegal happened. It looks like just plain intimidation by the AG’s office.

The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.

In the words of George W. Bush, “Mission accomplished”.  The funniest part, in a sad way, way this.

The News on June 10 filed a public records request with the attorney general for the case file. Abbott’s office, which is in charge of enforcing the state’s open records law, asked itself for a ruling on whether those records must be released. In an Aug. 28 letter, the attorney general’s office ruled that it may withhold the records under state law.

Today starts the trial of their continued efforts to keep the voting populace low, Texas voter ID trial begins as elections ramp up.

Kuff has much more on Abbott’s latest misstep, Abbott’s voter registration persecution.

And points to this from Nonsequiteuse, Greg Abbott: Arrogant, Dangerous, and a Craven Hypocrite.

Time after time, Abbott has demonstrated that the rules apply one way for him, and another way for the rest of us.

He championed tort reform, drastically limiting the amount someone can recover in a personal injury trial after he, himself, recovered a very large settlement in a personal injury trial. Remind yourself of the details here.

He drilled his own well to water his lawn while the city and county he lives in suffered from a drought that continues to this day. Soak up the full story here.

He willfully and recklessly destroyed records and refuses to keep statistics about potential voter fraud while championing a law that nonpartisan experts have shown not only disenfranchises minority voters, women, and students, but also targets only the rarest type, and least effective form of, voter fraud (in person voter impersonation).

Greg Abbott wants to be governor so he can take care of Greg Abbott, as well as a few campaign contributors of his who want to continue running their predatory lending businesses without any oversight, building their dangerous chemical storage facilities next to nursing homes and residential neighborhoods without disclosing what, exactly, is being stored, and pillaging our natural resources without regard for the safety of our citizens or water supply.

Dangerous, arrogant, and a craven hypocrite. Ladies and gentlemen, what are you doing to make sure this man does not become governor?

This is what happens when one party rules.  Again, nothing will change until they’re made to pay on election day. It’s blatantly obvious what they’re doing.  They’re plan is to continue making sure they win the election before the ballots are ever cast.

With news like this it’s no wonder many of the GOP statewide candidates are not agreeing to debate their Democratic opponents.

Apparently negotiating with himself, Abbott agrees to new debate.
Democrat challenges GOP’s Paxton to debate in AG race. Paxton has legal issues.

Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.


TPA Blog Round Up (September 1,2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:01 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone had a good Labor Day as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Like many people, Off the Kuff was cheered by the ruling in the school finance lawsuit.

The TXGOP had a really lousy week, and it only got worse for Greg Abbott as the Labor Day holiday weekend began. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn’t wonder why the attorney general is running away from debating Wendy Davis, because he can’t say ‘no comment’ when asked about his many scandals in a debate.

Libby Shaw now posting at Daily Kos notes that this week has not been particularly good for Republican lawmakers. The bad includes Texas Attorney General and 2014 Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Not a good week for Republicans, including Greg Abbott.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The economy in Texas has never been miraculous. Bleeding the people dry while stockpiling cash is no miracle, Neglect and Greed.

Make no mistake, Republicans are waging a war against public education. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that the Texas constitution is standing in their way.

Texas Leftist applauds the Leticia Van de Putte campaign for catching Dan Patrick in a bold-faced lie. He cannot hide from the 2011 education cuts. Plus, we reveal the true reasoning behind Greg Abbott’s ‘Debate and Switch’.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money-Owned American Political System asked why Texas Democratic Lt. Governor Leticia Van de Putte would look the other way at vocal supporters of her campaign who voted for the state-mandated rape of the forced sonogram law.


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

Beyond Bones has everything you need to know about sharks but were afraid to ask.

Nancy Sims examines the feminism of Beyonce.

Newsdesk introduces us to the widely discredited “expert” who coached the state’s witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit.

Ben Sargent solves the GOP’s Latino outreach problem.

The Lunch Tray asks if using junk food tactics to sell vegetables to kids is a good idea or not.

TransGriot has good wishes for the new school year.

Better Texas Blog analyzes the school finance decision.

Nonsequiteuse reacts to the story of Greg Abbott’s partisan witch hunt against Houston Votes.

And finally, the TPA congratulates The Great God Pan Is Dead for its fifth blog anniversary.


John Carter’s Strategy On Student Loans – Too Bad, So Sad

Posted in District 31, Had Enough Yet? at 11:27 am by wcnews


While being tossed softballs by the local GOP in Saldo GOP Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock) said this.

Pat Noonan mentioned the difficulty many younger, college-educated people face trying to find work and wondered, short of mass forgiveness of student loans, what the Republican Party can do to attract them to the party.

“I don’t think the government should forgive student loans,” Carter said. “They got themselves into it, they can get themselves out of it.”

He added that his four adult children all paid back their student loans. Carter segued into the need to attract 25- to 40-year-olds into the Republican Party and ways to get their attention.

“The Republican Party has to get youth back into politics,” he said. “I’m launching a campaign through alternative media to let the youth know who I am.”

That’s a great message for young people. You went and screwed up your life by getting an education now deal with it. And if the children of a millionaire congressman can payback their student loans so can you.

Elizabeth Warren’s plan is much better, Elizabeth Warren: Let’s Tax Millionaires To Allow Students To Refinance Their Debt.

There’s A Simple Fix For The Public School Finance System In Texas

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Education at 10:16 am by wcnews

Yesterday brought another indictment of the inadequate public school finance system in Texas.  But the reality is that this is an indictment of the Texas finance system – the way we fund, or don’t fund in this case, our government.  The last time The Lege tried to “fix” school finance in Texas they just made it worse, with a tax swap scheme that everyone knew would be the disaster it has turned into.

But the question that everyone wants to know the answer to – how do we fix this? – is simple yet unlikely to happen anytime soon.  There is no way there can be a solution if our government stays under one-party rule.  The extremists that now run the Texas GOP have no use for public education.  Why would they try to fix a system they believe should not exist?

The simple fix for financing public education is to look at states that do it right and emulate them.  More then likely the states that do it right have a way of collecting and distributing money throughout their state in a fair manner.  It likely involves an state income tax – along with sales and property taxes.  This likely means the other states have a less regressive tax system – the more you make the more you pay, and vice versa – where in Texas is the exact opposite, very regressive.

Raise your hand if you see that changing anytime soon in Texas.  That’s what I thought.

Texas will continue to inadequately and unfairly finance it’s public education system until the public stands up and makes it’s government fix it.  Then and only then will this end.  This cannot be fixed in one election cycle.  It will take a sustained effort over many election cycles to fix what’s been neglected for far too long.

Until that happens it will be more schemes and scams and little, if any, improvement.

Kuff has all the analysis on yesterday’s decision, School finance system ruled unconstitutional again.


Judge Declares School Finance System Unconstitutional – Again!

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Education at 2:28 pm by wcnews

Read the ruling here.

This is a pretty good explanation of how we got here.

It’s been a continued attack on public education by the Texas GOP.

Read more about the history of Texas’ structural deficit, Understanding the budget and Texas’ structural deficit.

Statement from Wendy Davis:

Wendy Davis issued the following statement in response to the ruling by Judge John Dietz finding school funding inadequate:

“Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”

In 2011, Senator Davis led the fight against the $5.4 billion in education cuts, filibustering a budget that shortchanged Texas children. In contrast, Greg Abbott has been fighting more than 600 Texas school districts in court, defending the public education cuts.

Statement from Leticia Van de Putte:

Today, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that Texas’ system of funding neighborhood schools is unconstitutional.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision tells us what every Texas parent already knows: Dan Patrick’s education cuts are bad for Texas students. Texas’ system of funding neighborhood schools is broken. Opportunity in Texas should not be restricted by where you live and the irresponsible whims of a politician more focused on political scorecards than our student’s report cards.

“Every Texan knows that investment in the education of our children and Texas’ workforce is critical to a smart economy. Now is the time to lead, not to wait for another court to tell us to do our job. As Lt. Governor, I’ll put Texas first and lead the Senate to do right by our children – no excuses.”

Davis Would End Tax Give-Aways To Corporations To Fund Education

Posted in Around The State, Education, Election 2014, Good Stuff at 9:47 am by wcnews

This is the best thing I’ve seen from the Davis campaign so far, Wendy Davis targets corporate tax breaks to get money for schools.

Wendy Davis acknowledged Wednesday that her proposals to improve public schools will cost more money, but she said revenue is available if lawmakers will make education a priority and eliminate some corporate tax breaks.

“We need a governor who will lead the Legislature in a bipartisan way to find the smart ways to create that investment,” said Davis, the Democratic nominee, at an Austin news conference.

Davis said that because of Texas’ booming economy, budget writers next year are expected to have a $4 billion surplus and billions more in the state rainy day fund.

She said that existing revenue, coupled with “closing corporate tax loopholes that have been on the books in Texas for decades,” should provide lawmakers with the money needed to balance the budget and boost funding for education without new taxes.


Asked what corporate tax breaks she would close, Davis’ campaign cited as an example property tax breaks for greenbelts used exclusively for recreation and parks, including private country clubs. Another tax break targeted by the Davis campaign is $111 million a year the state loses by rewarding large stores for paying their sales taxes on time.

Davis said she and Abbott offer “starkly different paths for our state” on investment in public schools.

Cue the whining and crying form politicians funded by corporations.

Republican nominee Greg Abbott says his Democratic opponent would raise taxes if elected governor.

Of course we know what Abbott’s plan is for public education – continued neglect.  While corporations have been getting off too easy for way too long in Texas, they should see this as a way of helping themselves.  After all, there’s no better economic development plan for our state then a well educated work force.


Davis Would End Tax Give-Aways To Corporations To Fund Education

Stubblefield Asks To Be Recused From Kelley’s Request For A New Trial

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 9:33 am by wcnews

Via the AAS, Judge in Greg Kelley case recuses himself from request for new trial.

The judge who presided over the July trial of Greg Kelley has recused himself from considering Kelley’s motion for a new trial.

District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield sent a letter Monday to the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court asking that another judge consider the motion for a new trial.

“The interests of justice would be served by having another judge consider the Defendant’s Motion for New Trial and the State’s response thereto with fresh eyes and ears,” said the letter.

The letter provided no further explanation for Stubblefield’s decision to recuse himself. A judge has until Sept. 29 to decide whether to grant a hearing on the motion.

I’m not sure if this means anything or not. It seems it would make sense to have a different judge from the trial judge rule on the request for a new trial. With a new judge if the ruling goes against Kelley it would seem to bolster the case against him.  This is definitely something to keep an eye on.


Neglect and Greed

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Had Enough Yet? at 9:21 am by wcnews

The economy in Texas has never been miraculous.  Bleeding the people dry while stockpiling cash is no miracle.

There are two ways for governments to pay for things – taxes or debt.  Today we learn from the Texas Tribune that in recent years local governments have been using one much more than the other. Local Debt Climbs as Texas Cities Deal With Growth. It starts by highlighting what happened in Jarrell, here in Williamson County.

Eight years ago, officials with the city of Jarrell decided their small community north of Austin needed a new wastewater system. They expected an influx of new residents and businesses to support some debt to pay for the project.

“That was about the time the market crashed,” City Manager Mel Yantis said. “Building basically rolled to a stop.”

As of 2013, Jarrell’s $10.3 million debt works out to $9,928 for each of the community’s 1,035 residents. It is one of the highest per-capita debt loads among Texas cities, which mostly have debt loads of less than $1,000 per resident.

In recent years, nearly all of Jarrell’s property taxes — 39 out of 44 cents per $100 of assessed value — have gone to paying off debt, Yantis said. That’s meant holding off on other projects, like expanding the police force.

Yantis expects the payments to drop significantly around 2021. Residents will notice the difference pretty quickly.

“They may see large increase in services without any increase in tax rate,” Yantis said. “It’ll be a good day for Jarrell whenever that debt’s paid down.”

This happened all over Texas before the 2008 collapse, where exponential growth was expected to continue unabated. Of course it didn’t and the local governments were left holding the bag.

Jarrell’s story is an extreme example of the way hundreds of Texas communities are relying more on borrowing to handle basic public services. Over the last decade, local government debt has grown around the country, but Texas, with an economic performance in recent years that has outpaced the rest of the country, is a special case. Of the 10 largest states, Texas has the second-highest local debt per capita as cities and school districts have gone on a borrowing spree to maintain or expand amenities while not raising taxes.

When communities are short on cash, local officials can choose to sell bonds to private investors, promising to pay it back later with interest. There are two main types of local debt issued in Texas: taxpayer-supported debt, which is backed by local property taxes, and revenue-supported debt, which is typically used to finance infrastructure projects and paid back through sales taxes or user fees. While both types of debt have grown in Texas in recent years, critics have expressed more concern over taxpayer-supported debt, which is usually voter-approved and can be tougher to pay off if projections for economic performance or population growth don’t pan out.

Between local cities, school districts and counties, more than half of all Texans live in areas where the bill for taxpayer-supported debt, including expected interest, totals more than $1 billion, according to state data analyzed by The Texas Tribune. In parts of the state’s two most populous counties — Harris and Dallas — the total cost of local debt tops $5 billion.

We have to remember that for the last several years Texas has been running a surplus and the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, has been filling up with money. And that money, which is supposed to be used in time of economic turmoil, is just sitting there, while local communities suffer.

Since the GOP took over control of our state government they’re more then willing to stockpile taxpayer money and let poor, working and middle class Texans continue to struggle. They tout the monthly tax numbers while so many struggle to get by. They’ve made mistake after mistake trying to use the “private sector” instead of government. (More mistakes here and here). In almost every case it’s wound up costing taxpayers more int the long run.

The GOP has made a living telling everyone how bad the government is as opposed to business.  You know, everything was supposed to be so much better if we just ran government like a business.  Not so much.

The truth is – despite the Texas Tribune series – there is not, and never was, anything miraculous about what happened in Texas.  The GOP has been neglecting the needs of the people of Texas while doing everything they can to make things easy for, and hand taxpayer money to corporations and big business.  Neglect and greed.

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