Now it Begins

January 10, 2021

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Well, here we go again. The war against the Professional Political Class returns to the Texas Capitol, but now within the context of government response to a pandemic. This WILL be a DIFFERENT session, and always realize the the Professional Political Class will use ANY crisis to strengthen their position. So let’s set the stage.

POST-ELECTION POLITICAL TERRAIN

Fortunately, the Texas Democrats got REALLY disappointing statewide on Election Day. Instead of taking the House as they hoped, they ended up exactly where they were last session in the House (83R – 67D)  and gaining only 1 in the Senate (18R – 13D). The senate is complicated by current rules requiring 19 votes to bring anything to the floor but I suspect those rules will be changed to get things considered with a majority. The GOP lost their most liberal House member (Sarah Davis) and an number of ‘problem’ liberal members retired.

But the slight increase in the conservatism of the House has pretty well been negated by the selection of Dade Phelan as Speaker of the House. Dade has a more liberal record than Dennis Bonnen had- and stronger direct ties to the Professional Political Class and is not know for ‘strength of will’ (or ‘being such an azzhole’, depending on your perspective) as Dennis was. As this is written, we are fairly certain the discussions are on to try to replicate last session’s ‘Kumbaya’ session, in which the Democrats were pretty happy with all they got.  However, they are monetary reasons it’s unlikely that Kumbaya at the same level is possible this session. The money simply isn’t there for the drunken sailor spending that was possible- and done- last session.

THE ISSUES   
Budget/Spending: The pandemic-related depression has significantly dropped current tax revenue a wholly different situation than the record revenue increase of last session.  That’s means lots of Democrat screaming of ‘slashing budgets’.  Education will be a special battlefield, especially in light of significant enrollment drops in many districts, as the pandemic disruption had a number of parents finding alternative- and staying with those alternatives.  Two major efforts to expand revenue will be marijuana legalization and casino gambling. These will NOT be socially beneficial, will result in short-term relief, nor generate anywhere NEAR the amounts  of tax they’ll claim. The shortfall is an excuse to get them done.

COVID:  The pandemic will substantially impact how the sessions is operationally done, especially the testimonial phase in committees.  How will they deal with many hundreds wanting to testify? Apparently, Lt.Gov Dan Patrick is pretty terrified by the virus; the rules they are setting are looking like a reflection of his fears.  Several offices are demanding you get a rapid test before you can even talk to them.  However, does ANYONE think the bigger glad-handing lobbyist will think THEY need to change how they schmooze through the Capitol? They are the greatest risk of all in terms of becoming ‘super-spreaders’.  I certainly hope they have to abide by at least the same rules as the ‘unwashed masses’. 

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But COVID  also will have profound legislative impact. The Democrats naturally will attempt to leverage it into more Texas money for public health, despite the trillions DC is spending. Expect a demand for race-based funding on this issue to sell the Democrat’s normal narrative, as everything is about race. 

Redistricting: The 800 pound gorilla under the Pink Dome. Talk right now is that they’ll move it to a specific special session and that, frankly, is a good approach at dealing with this effort whose main priority will be bipartisan incumbent protection- as it almost always is.  There will likely be 3 new congressional district to fight over as well. Doing it outside of the regular session will let everyone focus on regular business without the pressure and heat of drawing districts.

Tax-funded Lobbying: An attempt will be made to pass this. I expect them to pass a ridiculously toothless version of this to try to appease the masses without impacting the high-life that lobbying provides our electeds in Austin. More on this later, as it obviously be a focus for us.. 

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Election Integrity: Part of the COVID response was to significantly alter how voting was done.  The Democrsts want as much as an expansion of mail-in ballots as possible, because they have a unique machine’ for cranking out Democrat votes. The inability to properly validate a ballot delivered by mail is considered a feature, not a bug. Democrats want all the the expanded vote mechanisms left in place.

Second Amendment: The Democrats have filed a BUNCH of efforts to take those rights away, and Constitutional Carry will be on the plate again. Not sure any of it will get much traction & likely to be zero-sum of at best some minor victory for gun rights but we’ll see.

Social Issues: Abortion will likely center on heartbeat bills, there will be some effort to assure institutionalized people (nursing home, assisted living, and disabled) have guaranteed access to at least ONE family member on a regular basis. Gender transition of minors through puberty blockers could be be a flaming hot issue. 

Government over-reach: This one will focus mainly one the massive emergency power abuse by Abbot, County Judges, and Mayors during COVID. Expect a limitation of 30 days without calling legislative session of passing ordinances at the local level. 

X factor: who knows what else will come up? Stay tuned to this space.

 


Caregivers for Compromise

August 9, 2020

These people are literally trying to defend their loved ones lives; in nursing homes, memory care centers, assisted living locations and homes for the disabled. The are asking for a REASONABLE accommodation during this pandemic.  That one family member go through the same screening all the healthcare workers go through in the facilities to be able to visit and help care for their loved ones

This rally was held outside the Texas Capitol August 8th.
Karen

Mary Barnette

For Paula

For Ernestine

Carly:

Fran

Mike

Mary’s Closing Remarks


Why Do 95+% of ALL Politicians ‘Turn to the Dark Side’

October 27, 2019

Generic politician after 4th term: ‘I haven’t changed a bit.’
Policy advocates with at least 20 years experience:


Oh, really?  Tell me; how many box seats at sporting events did you get- without paying for- them before and after election? How often did you eat meals closer or int the 3 digit range without paying for them- before and after election?  How many free hunting trips? How many ‘special’ investment deals?  Yeah, you’ve changed.

But the question is- Why do nearly every last politician become part of the problem, their results nowhere near matches how they originally campaigned, and morph from creatures of principle to creature of pragmatism?

First off, do NOT view these transformations away from their constituents to be friends of the Professional Political Class as a light switch. It is a change that nearly every politicians honestly swears won’t to them because everyone thinks they are ‘different’. (Newsflash; VERY few are.)

But once elected, the Professional Political Class (PPC) starts up the massively funded machine to work on them.  In Austin, that about 9 lobbying ENTITIES per legislator Spending in the 9 digit range (over $41 million in taxpayer funds alone, over $7 million of that reported as spent on food & entertainment!) With those resources the lobbyist, the state civil servants and their ‘experienced’ colleagues start working on them 24/7 to draw them away from constituent influence. With the weak, the ‘dark side’ can take over in a single term in office; with the strong, it can take 4-5 terms. But understand this, the Professional Political Class nearly always wins; even with those VERY few who ultimate ly resist the siren song, they will isolate and put everything they have to ‘unelect’ them, either by consoladating behind an opponent (Rep. Rinaldi) , or by convincing them  ‘resistance is futile’ and getting them to retire (Rep. Strickland).

Understand: all of this is true on BOTH sides of the aisle, but is always more severe in the dominant party, especially one that has dominated for decades. The Democrats being out of power so long has led to their legislators in Austin to generally be ‘longer in the tooth’ since the high-dollar lobbying gigs are less available to them (the Dems changed somewhat in 2018, as the GOP did in 2010-2014)

So what’s the solution? Grassroots trying to match the wining & dining & other perks? Hardly, even if we had that kind of resources, all it would do is make things MORE corrupt- and expensive. No, the grassroots has to be more organized in having a day-in/day-out presence in Austin throughout the session. And that presence has to be better informed, organized and effective, keeping a multi-session perspective.  Getting an issue successfully resolved often takes forming the issue into legislation and tweaking it one session, getting part of it done as a ‘compromise’ the next session, then get as much as there is political will to get it done in the third session. Why can’t it get done in one session? Because the Professional Political Class can’t monetize it that way,

Yes, that’s wrong, cynical and corrupt; unless the grassroots can knock off at least 40% of all incumbents in one election, it is NOT going to change. During legislative session, you work with the reality on the ground, during election season you try to CHANGE the reality on the ground.

And what about the individual candidates? The first rule; as an advocate do NOT be their ‘friend’; be their conscience.

Consider every last candidate- no matter how good they seem- has an expiration date measured at best in single digit years- and be pleasantly surprised by the VERY, VERY few that don’t go over to the dark side within 8 years. There is another creature that also rarely appears; that is the old warhorse that finally shakes it off and realizes they’ve been serving a really dark culture.  The Darth Vaders of politics. Often it is triggered by a personal affront or some given issue that the PPC had been playing too long talking out of both sides of their mouth). At first, you might not believe them, but sometimes the personal affront opens their eyes. (I personally believe that’s the ONLY way we got any significant property tax relief in Austin this last time; Sen. Bettencourt had enough of the pure BS going on in the back rooms).

Myself, I find that there is NO incumbent left in the Texas House worth putting in the free labor for and so I’m retired from volunteer campaigning for ANY of them. Three generations is enough of working to elect folks and watching them rot in office at varying speeds.

Younger folks can read this and understand what took me decades to learn. Do NOT give up working to churn those politicians in, then out of office and DEFINITELY commit to being there WHILE THEY WORK to help them turn to the dark side more slowly. And have the next guys lined up and ready to go with after they DO ‘turn’.

 


The Mark Jones/Rice University LIb-Con Study.

June 7, 2019

UPDATE2: I added another worksheet of ‘special interest’ rating of the Texas House member. Only Texans for FIscal Responsibility has released their latest; the history for the others is included. Also added a page to graph given representatives.  .

UPDATE: I pretty much completed my analysis on the RIce/Jones Lib-Con numbers here. Will use this to include the ‘interest group ratings on a separate worksheet when they all become available.
Mark Jones has been doing this analysis of the Texas Legislature since 2011 and- while not perfect- I consider it to be the most objective assessment of voting patterns I’ve found.  It uses every recorded vote that there are at least 5 votes (in the house) that differs from the majority and segregates the votes into liberal-conservative blocks. It does NOT take into account the value of any one bill vs. another, weighing them equally (a downside). Still, I find the correlation as a good starting point and, a reference to other groups’ rankings.

The best use of Jones’ data is to do comparisons in terms  ranking within the given house of the legislature- and compare the changes in positioning over multiple sessions.  And, for the House, that’s what I’ve done here on the worksheets after the first one that contains the raw data for the last 4 sessions.  Any one of the following worksheets can be copied and populated from other representatives to produce appropriate graphs.

Jeramy D Kitchen has also done great work here and has included the newly released Fiscal responsibility Index. Also, The Texans for Fiscal Responsibility Index has been released here; as expected- considering the spending binge that went on in Austin, the grades are way down.

Here is an example of the type of graph that visually speaks volumes These four folks are all fairly conservative people who were appointed as Chairs of substantial committees for the first time. So, why the drop in the percentage ranking in the GOP caucus?  One can only assume they tend to follow ‘leadership’ more out of loyalty- and leadership was directing them to LESS conservative voting trends.

When I’m done with the Senate side, I will add it as a separate worksheet set here.