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June 22, 2016      7:22 PM

Smith: The SCOTUS Immigration Ruling: A Kafkaesque Conclusion to the Battle Over DAPA and DACA

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the U.S. Supreme Court deadlock over lower court rulings that Texas and other states would “probably” prevail on the merits give a strange, phantom-like cast to the outcome.

Taken together, this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions in two cases originating in Texas seem to say, “No worries that the University of Texas admissions policy can consider race because we’re going to deport one million Texas Hispanics anyway.”

We refer of course to the court’s deadlocked vote letting stand a lower court’s rejection of President Obama’s memorandum to immigration authorities. The President’s memo asked that they defer action on the possible deportation of four million undocumented immigrant children and their parents. Texas and other Republican-controlled state governments called this “executive overreach.”

The other case is the zombie litigation involving UT admissions policy that includes some consideration of the race of applicants. It only seems like generations have graduated from the UT School of Law since rejected applicant Abigail Fisher first brought the suit. The Court upheld the affirmative action policy.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 22, 2016      12:32 PM

Greenfield: Oh Where, Oh Where Can Our Tax Revenue Be?

Our number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield with an update on the fiscal reality we may face as legislators arrive for the 85th regular session of the Legislature

The Certified Revenue Estimate (CRE) released in October 2015 predicted total tax collections would decrease by 3.8 percent in FY16 and increase by 4.9 percent in FY17. This translates to a decrease of 0.8 percent in total tax collections for the FY16-17 biennium.

As we enter the 4th quarter of FY16 and shortly the general election campaign season, candidates for the 85th Texas Legislature and the citizens of the state should at least have a general idea of the fiscal situation that will be faced.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

June 16, 2016      3:18 PM

Estes: Disarming the Second Amendment Won’t Stop Terrorism

In this op-ed, Sen. Craig Estes argues “The solution to Orlando, San Bernadino, Paris, Mumbai, and scores of other attacks across the world is not banning scary-looking guns. It’s figuring out how to shut down these terror networks and their hateful propaganda.”

Partisan spin doesn’t usually surprise me—after almost fifteen years in politics, I’ve come to expect it from both sides in response to both triumphs and tragedies. But I was honestly surprised when, after the worst terrorist attack on our soil since September 11th, the Left’s response was to blame the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party, and an imaginary class of scary-looking firearms. 

Remember when the country used to come together after terrorist attacks and unite against our common foes?

Well this isn’t 2001 anymore.

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By Sen. Craig Estes

June 16, 2016      11:34 AM

Smith: One Day There Was a Wall. The Next Day the Wall Was Gone: Texas Future post Trump and the Trumpettes

From the Left: As the Texas Democratic Party Convention opens in San Antonio, QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues Donald Trump might well lift Democrats to victories this year and on into the future.

As the Texas Democratic Party gathers in San Antonio, it’s a good time to visit its future prospects and the future of the state Republican Party as well.

Let’s begin with the latter. Republicans have handed their presidential nomination to Donald Trump, a circumstance that is causing a good deal of hand wringing within the GOP.

Trump and many of his supporters are proud of their bigotry. When Trump is not publicly attacking Mexicans immigrants as rapists and murders or all Muslims as terrorists, he speaks in code about rejecting “political correctness.”

It’s not lost on anyone that Trump’s definition of political correctness is equal protection for all ethnicities, genders and national heritages of Americans. When he criticizes political correctness he is advocating restoration of white male superiority to make America great again.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 9, 2016      3:14 PM

Smith: Children of the Damned? It’s the Adults Who Are Creepy, Not the Kids

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the contemptible political scapegoating of children will backfire

In the 1960 cult movie classic, Children of the Damned, the scientist hero concentrates all his thoughts on a big brick wall to try and block the psychic abilities of the scary, mind-controlling village of damned children. He wants to blow them up, but if they read his mind and see he’s brought a bomb it would be hell to pay.

The movie came to mind as two Texas high school valedictorians paid the price on social media this week for proudly claiming undocumented immigrant status. One (whose actual status is unclear) is on her way via scholarship to the University of Texas. The other will attend Yale. I’m leaving their names out because they’ve suffered enough.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 2, 2016      12:00 PM

Smith: The Emergency Leave Scandal is Worse Than You Think

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that three years ago the Legislature stepped in to force agencies to pay “emergency leave” to state employees in the National Guard or other services when they were called to duty. Today it’s used profligately as “hush money.”

The use of “emergency leave” was once so restricted that the Texas Legislature in 2013 passed a bill making it clear that state employees called to duty in the National Guard or other military services would be granted the leave.

This view puts the lie to some state leaders’ claims today that the emergency leave provision is so expansive it can be used for severance packages – essentially hush money to keep former employees quiet.

Former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte clarified the emergency leave provision after many state agencies made it tough for our military men and women to keep their state pay. At the time, no one in state government thought of emergency leave as anything but temporary leave, certainly not taxpayer-funded bonuses, severance pay or hush money.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 1, 2016      1:00 PM

Greenfield: Public Education, Kiss Off

As House lawmakers get their marching orders on school finance, QR’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield reminds as all there’s no such thing as a free lunch

On May 13, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that the current school finance system satisfies the minimum requirements as stated in the Texas Constitution. While the Court mentioned that improvements could and should be made to an overly complex system, the likelihood of this occurring during the 85th Legislative Session is somewhere between being struck by lightning and winning the Powerball.

During a Passover Seder, four questions are asked. The first, “why is this night different from all other nights?” This is similar to the question asked before each legislative session, “why should this session be different from all other sessions concerning public education?” 

The answer to this question is it ain’t. 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 26, 2016      1:56 PM

Smith: Texas Agencies’ “Hush Money” Settlements May Not Bind Employees to Silence

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that state employees forced to sign hush money settlements can’t be bound by agreements that are illegal for the state of Texas to enter into.

Texas state agency leaders, including Attorney General Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George P Bush, you’d better watch out. All those potential whistle blowers you paid for their guaranteed silence? Under the law, they are probably free to reveal whatever secrets you are trying to hide.

If a party to a contract is legally prohibited from entering into such a contract, other parties cannot be bound by the terms. In case you didn’t know, it’s likely illegal for the state to use taxpayer money to pay hush money to employees.

In recent weeks, investigations by the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle have uncovered a widening scandal at multiple state agencies.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 17, 2016      5:40 PM

Greenfield: The Texas GOP should send President Obama a Christmas Card

QR’s resident number cruncher says because of the greater than expected decline in state tax collections, we should expect that the ending balance for the state will be markedly less than the $4.1 billion estimated ending certification balance for FY17

We are now 8 months into FY16 and total tax collections have decreased by an amount ($1.9 billion) almost equal to the estimated decline ($2.0 billion) in the Certified Revenue Estimate (CRE) released in October 2015.  Counter to the CRE, total state revenue is increasing at a rate (5.2 percent) substantially greater than the 1.2 percent decline in the CRE.  This result is due to the increase in non-tax revenue ($5.4 billion) being 10 times the estimate in the CRE.

Figure 1 shows that the decline in YTD growth in tax collections (-6.0 percent) is 57.9 percent greater than the estimated rate (-3.8 percent). The YTD growth rate in total state non-tax revenue (14.7 percent), is almost 15 times greater than the Comptroller’s estimated non-tax growth rate of 1.0 percent.  This has resulted in total state revenue increasing by 5.2 percent compared to the 1.8 percent decline in the CRE.

Table 1 shows state tax collections through April, eight months through FY16, have decreased by $1.6 billion or 6.0 percent, a rate of decline last experienced in FY10 when tax collections declined by 6.5 percent. What accounts for this substantial decrease in state tax collections? As shown in Table 1, the growth rate in every tax, except the motor fuels, franchise, insurance, and cigarette taxes, is increasing at a rate less than forecasted in the CRE. 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 12, 2016      4:41 PM

Smith: The Icky Bathroom Obsessions of the Right

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues the Right’s scapegoating of “others” is enough to make us sick at our stomach, if only we could find a bathroom where it was safe to be sick.

The icky bathroom obsessions of Lt. Dan Patrick, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans make me wonder whether we need segregated public restrooms after all: one set for Republicans, another set for Democrats.

 As Bill Maher often says, “I kid, I kid.” But on a serious note, the GOP’s new “wedgy” issue does raise an alarming question: who in hell is going to do the up close and personal inspections of public restroom users to make certain they are in the proper public facility?

We may not have to worry much longer about public school restrooms, though, because right-wing Texas seems to be on the road to eliminate public schooling altogether. Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Texas’ unconstitutional public education system was constitutional after all, furthering the right-wing goal of erasing the “public” from education in favor of unaccountable corporate control.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 5, 2016      2:14 PM

Smith: We are Going to Need a Bigger Wall

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that we could protect ourselves by building a wall around Donald Trump, but now it has to be big enough to include Trump’s newest supporters – former Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Maybe the best way for the nation to deal with Donald Trump would be to build a “great, great wall” – not the one he wants to erect along the U.S.-Mexico border, but a wall around him. Maybe it’d make America great again, and we might even get Mexico (and a host of other countries) to help pay for it given Trump’s belligerent ignorance on foreign policy.

Now by “wall” I don’t mean an Edgar Allan Poe “Cask of Amontillado” style seal-him-up-behind-behind-a-brick-barrier kind of thing. I mean a humane wall around a nice room with free color TV. We might include a “magic fingers” machine in the double bed to provide relaxing, vibrating massages for 10 cents a minute. Like I said, humane.

Had we moved quickly enough with the wall around Trump it could have saved Lt. Dan Patrick some staggeringly embarrassing public humiliation. Patrick, you see, was Sen. Ted Cruz’s most notable supporter. Patrick photo bombed Cruz campaign events all around the country.  The two were inseparable.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 4, 2016      3:50 PM

O’Donnell: How Republicans manufactured their 2016 Trumpenstein candidate

Our resident curmudgeon offers a history lesson on how the Republican Party nationally got into this fix

The GOP short bus of presidential campaigning trundles toward the Donner Pass of Cleveland with no able driver and the “check engine” and “operator error” lights flashing hopelessly.

Establishment Republicans, True Believers and party apparatchiks across the nation rend their garments, and lament aloud that their 2016 fate seems hitched to a bouffant-sporting, bilious, blowhard whose credentials for the White House are unreality television, perpetual self-promotion and a knack for inciting the ugly elements in the American psyche.

The answer is simple.

Donald Trump is a full-on product of the GOP’s repeated failure to present candidates to an electorate that wants someone to get them excited. Forty years ago they had their greatest success. Crafting popular movie star, television pitchman and California governor Ronald Reagan into the right candidate was brilliant. Reagan’s election, the first triumph by electronic marketing, used his star presence to belittle and vanquish all rivals.

The GOP was in the presidential candidate manufacturing business. But sequels don’t always make a franchise.

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By Edd O'Donnell

May 4, 2016      3:41 PM

David Dunn: Texas celebrates National Charter School Week

In op-ed, Charter Schools Association ED says “let’s continue the good work by going further and providing the necessary funding to meet the demand for seats in the classroom.”

During May 1-7, we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, which is designated to raise awareness of public charter schools and the benefit they provide to students and communities.  How appropriate that Texas also commemorates the 20-year anniversary of operating public charter schools in the Lone Star State.

In 1995, the Texas Legislature authorized the establishment of public charter schools and 20 public charter schools began operating in fall 1996. There has been tremendous success and growth in the number of charter holders, campuses, and students in the last 20 years in Texas. 

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By David Dunn