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February 24, 2017      3:43 PM

Smith: “Jim Crow, June Crow, Jose Crow Laws”

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the anti-gay marriage movement is just one way today’s Republican leadership is trying to divide America by law

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, apparently alarmed at political threats from the far right, will rehear a case that would make second-class citizens of public employees in same-sex marriages.

The Court rejected the Houston case last September by an 8-1 vote. Then came a flood of emails from members of sects once part of a religion of love. The emails more or less threatened to unseat the judges unless they voted to diminish the lives of the targets of their hatred.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, engaged in an undeclared war over who can best pander to the extremists, filed briefs urging the court to reverse itself and take up the case. Attorney General Ken Paxton did, too. He wasn’t about to miss the party.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 23, 2017      3:47 PM

Pauken: A new sheriff in town

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken says “what worries Liberals is that they no longer will have control of the Department of Justice where they can use the threat of legal action to force their social agenda on America.”

Liberals are going crazy. There is a new Attorney general at Department of Justice and his name is Jeff Sessions.

Heather Digby Parton over at Salon says that Jeff Sessions is “an angry man” and a “hanging judge” who “has not mellowed with age.”

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis Taylor, Jr. makes an equally “reasoned” point in a recent column: “Since the country elected a clueless president it’s the people in his Cabinet, like Jeff Sessions who will be wreaking havoc as they storm the halls of justice.”

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By Tom Pauken

February 17, 2017      1:49 PM

Smith: Sanctuary from GOP Lies About “Sanctuary Cities”

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that GOP leaders are misleading voters about so-called sanctuary cities and terrorizing Hispanic families and communities with unconstitutional actions

U.S. Homeland Security Director John Kelly recently said he doesn’t “have a clue” what a sanctuary city is. It’s refreshing when someone in Donald Trump’s cabinet tells the truth. So far, the American public could use a little sanctuary from Trump & Company lies.

The term “sanctuary city” is loosely applied to political jurisdictions who honor the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantees against unlawful searches and seizures and Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process. Seems rather dutiful of local officials, doesn’t it?

Immigration officials sometimes issue “detainers” – administration requests – that city or county jails keep someone imprisoned until ICE officers can drop by to pick them up.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 14, 2017      5:59 PM

McCaig: Texas Legislators Must Reform Insurance Litigation

Houston attorney Mark McCaig says his advocacy has been to “protect the legal rights of those who have been harmed by the wrongdoing of another, not to protect the income stream of greedy lawyers who seek to game the judicial system.”

As an attorney who has represented many homeowners in disputes with insurance carriers, I know the importance of strong consumer protections that deter and punish bad behavior by insurance companies.

Unfortunately, a small group of unscrupulous attorneys, contractors, and public adjusters have abused these important consumer protections for financial gain at the expense of not only insurance companies, but the homeowners they represent.

There has been a proliferation of insurance litigation in recent years in the wake of weather events such as hailstorms and hurricanes. In many cases, this litigation is the result of solicitation efforts targeting unsophisticated consumers with promises of assistance with an insurance claim or additional money.

The questionable nature of many of these lawsuits has come under scrutiny from regulators, Judges, and juries. One prolific hailstorm attorney recently agreed to a one year suspension from the practice of law after the State Bar of Texas alleged he violated several disciplinary rules, including improperly soliciting cases. In the lawsuits that have gone all the way to trial, juries have typically issued verdicts in favor of the insurance companies.

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By Mark McCaig

February 9, 2017      5:52 PM

Pauken: Passing on Executive Privilege

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken shares some personal history with the family of the man Trump has nominated to the highest court in the land

The recent nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court by Donald Trump led to a flurry of attacks on the nominee, even going so far as to attack his mother Anne Gorsuch, for her troubled history at EPA in the Reagan Administration.

The Washington Post recently ran a story on Anne Gorsuch which noted that she resigned from EPA “after being cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents to a House subcommittee investigating a Superfund toxic waste program”. What is not mentioned is the story that the real culprit in her demise was Ted Olson, an assistant Attorney General in the Reagan Administration.

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By Tom Pauken

February 3, 2017      3:57 PM

Smith: Of Bigot Burgs and Shock-Jockery

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that an unseemly pattern is emerging among some Republican leaders. Why are all their targets people of color?

The Russian military is advancing in Ukraine. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a real estate wheeler-dealer, helps his daddy-in-law approve an ill-conceived and impetuous military adventure in Yemen that ended in tragedy. One hundred thousand visas have been revoked by the president’s unconstitutional Muslim ban.

There are some significant things happening in national and global affairs. There are some not inconsequential things happening in Texas, too, if we look past the debate over Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s obsession with bathrooms.

For instance, Gov. Greg Abbott is threatening to hammer Travis County for defying his order to create Bigot Burgs or non-sanctuary cities where the racial profiling by local law enforcement of brown-skinned people is mandated by law. After hours of testimony, nearly all of it from citizens opposed to Bigot Burgs, a Senate committee approved it this week.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 1, 2017      5:23 PM

O’Donnell: Marching was great fun, now what?

QR’s Senior Curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell says protests are great but the other side won’t care when ‘They have control of all three branches of government at both levels”

Euphoria, Esprit de corps. Camaraderie. Incredibly witty signs, placards and costumes. Fiery speeches. Impassioned pleas for a new resistance. A renewal of the power of American women united against a common foe. Fifty thousand marchers in Austin.  Heady stuff in Texas and in locations around the world.

At worst, it was a phenomenal demonstration that at least three million Americans are really angry about Donald Trump’s presidency. At best, it was a phenomenal demonstration that at least three million Americans are really angry about Donald Trump’s presidency. Lotsa sound. Lotsa fury. Significance? Not so much in a time when forty-year old Star Wars plots or the seventy-year-old Rolling Stones can draw those kinds of crowds.

Returning home, marchers still marvel at the glory of being there for the event. Soon the reality that this march, and more to come, will be met with a dismissive chuckle (and later with cops and water cannons) by the power structures in Washington and Austin. It’s simple. They don’t care. They have control of all three branches of government at both levels. They have, and further intend to dismantle everything they find odious in government policies and institutions.

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By Edd O'Donnell

January 30, 2017      6:40 PM

Fullerton and Lee: The reason for rising property taxes may not be what you think

In this op-ed, leaders at the Texas Association of Realtors argue that “it will take a lot of work to revamp our school finance system, but we believe Texas schoolchildren and taxpayers are worth it.”

Has the shock worn off yet?

Property tax bills are due January 31, and you’re probably still amazed at how much your bill increased from last year.

It’s no longer a matter of if your property taxes went up, it’s how much … but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Take a second to review your property tax bill and you’ll likely see that the largest portion goes to your school district.

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By Vicki Fullerton and Jaime Lee

January 27, 2017      2:01 PM

Smith: In Contempt of America

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that if leaders were required to treat citizens with the respect and deference afforded our judges, today’s Donald Trump-led GOP would be found in contempt of all of us.

Imagine the U.S. citizenry sitting as one 320 million-strong tribunal. Elected leaders sit at various advocacy tables before us. Immediately we notice difference between our imaginary tribunal and a court of law: those “officers of the court” before us possess the power to tell us, their judges, what to do.

We grant them that authority conditionally. The most important condition or requirement is that they tell the truth. Another condition – a meta-condition, you might say – is that they honor our requirements in all matters.

That compact is breaking down, and it has reached a point of crisis as the Donald Trump era begins. Parenthetically, we should hope that the Trump years are so few that the word “era” won’t apply.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 26, 2017      6:50 PM

Pauken: Trump inaugural speech outrages the elites

Former Republican Party Chair Pauken says “We haven’t had a President since Ronald Reagan who meant what he said. Donald Trump is off to a great start…”

President Donald Trump made it clear in this inaugural address that the issues he campaigned on in the election will be prominently featured in his policy agenda as President: no more endless wars in the Middle East, bringing jobs home to America, and controlling our borders.

The neoconservative/neoliberal policies, which have driven the public policy agenda from the Clinton Administration, through two terms of George W. Bush, and eight years of Barack Obama, is over.

Here are Trump’s words on those issues:

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By Tom Pauken

January 25, 2017      5:07 PM

Grusendorf: The School Funding Dilemma

Former Texas House Public Ed Committee Chair Kent Grusendorf, who also recently left TPPF, offers his thoughts on the challenge of addressing school finance

Pre-session Speaker Joe Straus indicated a desire to revisit the education finance system –a noble and critical issue to be addressed.  This week Sen. Jane Nelson also indicated school finance as a session objective.  This is encouraging news as the courts have found the system to be overly complex, outdated, and failing in meeting student needs.

The finance system is a maze of complex formulas which few people understand. Each of the various formula elements are sold on the basis of some logical reasoning, however; in the end they are implemented because they flow money to districts in a sufficient manner to garner votes necessary for passage.  As everyone knows, the computer runs indicating how funds flow to districts a critical to passage of any school finance legislation.

Upon arriving in the House in the late 80’s I represented both the Arlington and Fort Worth school districts and quickly learned that tweaking certain formulas one way helped AISD but harmed FWISD.  Since most of my voters resided in the Arlington school district the FWISD folks were constantly upset over my school finance votes.

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By Kent Grusendorf

January 20, 2017      5:20 PM

Smith: We Will Respect Trump When Trump Respects Us

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Trump’s disdain for many Americans is reason enough to undercut his policies

On the morning of Donald Trump’s inaugural (shudder), MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tweeted, “I love what @alfranken said about the role of democratic opposition this AM. It’s to challenge Trump – not undercut him.”

I didn’t hear Sen. Al Franken say that, but I assume he must have. But whatever in the world could Franken and Matthews mean?

Isn’t it the righteous work of the Democratic opposition to undercut policies we view as anti-human and anti-democratic? Isn’t undercutting Trump the most patriotic service we can provide to our nation?

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 18, 2017      5:27 PM

Pauken: Here’s to a productive legislative session

Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken says fixing school finance, real property tax reform, and more should be accomplished during the 85th session

Lawmakers have convened in Austin and it is time for them to get serious about doing the business of this state. One of the frustrations of the American people, which led to Donald Trump’s election, is that politicians are always talking about they are going to change things but nothing much gets done when they are in office.

Here are my thoughts on how to have a productive legislative session in 2017.

l. FIX SCHOOL FINANCE.

School finance in Texas has been broken for a long time. Ever since the passage of the “Robin Hood” school finance scheme in the early 1990s’ (where the state takes property taxes from the so-called property rich school districts and redistribute those monies to the property-poor districts), educational finance has been in a mess.

What started out as a $400 million transfer has morphed into a $1 billion shift of property taxes from some school districts to others. 

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By Tom Pauken

January 16, 2017      4:53 PM

Greenfield: On the Backs of Our Children

Our resident number cruncher suggests that a fiscal note for bills isn’t sufficient, there should also be consideration given to the real costs in the lives of children when certain policies are enacted

Along with their oath of office, I hope every member of the 85th Legislature also swears to not vote on any bill that adversely affects the children of this state. 

Why would I make such a statement? Hasn’t every member of every legislative session been concerned with the children of the state?  While one would hope they were, as has been well documented the ultimate “costs” of many of the bills enacted during the 84th Legislative session were borne by the children of our state. 

What, you ask, are you out of your mind?  My response is a definite NO, I am not out of my mind, and this analysis will document how actions by members of the 84th Legislature continued to impose costs on the backs of the state’s children.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

January 13, 2017      3:01 PM

Fort Bend ISD Board President to Patrick: I am not an "educrat." I am a parent and proud conservative

In open letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Fort Bend ISD President Kristin Tassin says “We must get beyond ideological rhetoric, get to the heart of the problem, and work together to find real solutions. But, it seems that some leaders at the state level are not listening.”

Dear Lt. Gov. Patrick,

With all due respect and contrary to what you may believe, not all of us who represent Texas public schools (the children who attend the schools, not the buildings), are liberals or “educrats,” as you referred to us in your speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation on January 11.

Most of us are parents, many with conservative views and values, who ran for the school board or got involved in our local school districts in order to improve education and make a difference for the children in our communities and across the state of Texas.

As an elected official myself, one of the things I must do is take the time to listen to those who work in the trenches with our children every day and make an effort to understand what is really going on in education. We must get beyond ideological rhetoric, get to the heart of the problem, and work together to find real solutions. But, it seems that some leaders at the state level are not listening.

You said in your speech that you are listening to your constituents. But, I am your constituent and your message to me was to stay home – to “save [my] money” and “don’t bother to come to Austin to lobby” for what I believe is best for the students in my district and Texas.

Well, I am not going to stay home. Not only because I care too much, but also because it is my duty under the law to advocate for public education and the more than 5.2 million Texas children who attend our public schools.

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By Kristin Tassin

January 13, 2017      11:09 AM

Smith: This is No Chicken Fried Steak Story - All for Justice and Liberty

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that backwards and forwards, the final words of the Pledge of Allegiance are words progressives live by.

Back in the 1980s, the Texas Capitol Press Corps produced the popular Gridiron Show, an annual ritual that raised money for scholarships and spoofed political figures. One bit in the 1988 Gridiron spectacular made fun of George H.W. Bush’s claim that his side that election year was more patriotic than the other side.

Although I was a mere alumnus of press corps by then, I was given a cameo role. The American-Statesman’s Larry Besaw, one of the quickest wits in Texas, played an MC calling for an audience volunteer who could say our Pledge of Allegiance forwards and backwards. I was that audience “volunteer.”

Besaw, by the way, once concocted out of whole tablecloth an origin story for the chicken fried steak, publishing it in the Statesman as a humor piece. He wrote that it was invented in 1911 in Lamesa by “unemployed draw bridge oiler Jimmie Don Perkins working as a short order cook.”  Is there any kind of draw bridge oiler other than an unemployed one?

This piece of steak-in-cheek fake news was soon picked up as fact. It made the Smithsonian. Rep. Tom Craddick even passed a resolution honoring Lamesa’s role in the culinary milestone. (Admit it, “milestone” is a good word for a chicken fried prepared by chefs of lesser skill than Jimmie Don, and there are a lot of them.)

I digress.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 12, 2017      5:03 PM

O'Donnell: Some New Modest Proposals

QR’s Senior Curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell argues the kids can fend for themselves, and they better learn to, in today’s Texas

It is clear that one of the chief sources of Texas government’s fiscal shortfalls is an obsession with children. We spend millions upon millions annually on these urchins -- natives and foreigners -- feeding, clothing, educating, doctoring, controlling their behavior, or locking them up. The burden is so great that the Texas Legislature is faced with taking extreme measures to stem the loss of blood and treasure attributable to the feckless ingrates.

Texas is not the first great power to face this crisis.

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By Edd O'Donnell

January 11, 2017      5:41 PM

Pauken: Straus and Patrick will drive the legislative agenda this session

From the right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken sizes up the big three this session, in which he expects Gov. Abbott to be largely asleep at the switch

Constitutionally, the office of the Governor of Texas is a weak one.  In my lifetime, the strongest Governor has been Allan Shivers who also served in the Texas State Senate and as Lt. Governor. 

In his position as Lt. Governor, Allan Shivers turned that office into a powerful one as he set the agenda for such basic issues as public education, higher education, and the development of our state highway system.  With the death of Gov. Beauford Jester, Shivers became Governor in 1949 and won election in his own right in 1950.  He served in that office until 1957 when he retired.  

A conservative Democrat, Shivers as Governor relied on his extensive experience in the Texas State Senate and as Lt. Governor presiding over the State Senate to wield enormous powers as Governor.  Under his stewardship, Texas had the reputation of developing the finest highway system in the nation and having an excellent educational system from elementary school through college.  He also fostered a positive climate for business.  

While Texas still maintains a pro-business climate when it comes to tax and regulatory issues, you can't say the same about our highway system or the state of education in Texas. 

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By Tom Pauken

January 6, 2017      5:50 PM

Smith: The GOP Votes for Suffering

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Republican leaders have no plans to replace the Affordable Care Act. Many Americans will get sick, stay sick or die unnecessarily if Obamacare is repealed.

Congressional Republicans and their co-conspirators around the country are slobbering all over themselves at the prospect of repealing Obamacare.

It’s the same barbarous mentality that led Texas leaders to refuse billions in federal dollars that would have helped millions of Texans get health care under Medicaid. In the case of Obamacare, the Right remains annoyed even though most who are benefitting from the law are buying insurance with their own hard-earned dollars. They argue that it’s a giveaway; and they argue it’s costing Americans too much. Which one is it? They don’t care.

Before Obamacare, insurance companies screened out those with medical conditions they didn’t want to be burdened with covering. The new law changed all that. These folks must now be covered. There is also no lifetime cap on claims. In the old days once you reached that accountant’s magic marker it was pay up or else (stay ill, expire, go broke, etc.).

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By Glenn W. Smith