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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

December 20, 2016      6:41 PM

Greenfield: Oh, Rest Ye Merry Legislators

QR’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says it is not just declining revenue that’s putting the state in a pinch, it is also rising expenditures

While not quite like the 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, the members of the 85th Legislature will not be entering a merry, merry session.

State tax collections continue to decline while state expenditure growth has (FY16)/is (FY17) exceeded the growth in all funds appropriations. And, as shown in this graph, economic growth in Texas is now less than the state rate of growth and was negative (-0.8 percent) in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

As shown in Figure 1, over the past decade the economy of Texas has outperformed the U.S. economy. This sterling performance has had a positive impact on tax collections. 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

December 19, 2016      3:21 PM

Pauken: How High Property Taxes Impact a Small Town in Texas

Former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken says it is time for Republican leaders to put up or shut up: “Pass a school finance bill that gets rid of Robin Hood while fully funding the property-poor districts and hold appraisal districts accountable…”

Port Aransas is a coastal city, also known as Mustang Island due to the wild Mustangs that once roamed the island. But, that was a long time ago.

Today, it is a tourist destination with more short term rentals than permanent residents. To survive, Port Aransas Independent School District has had to import students to meet the minimum requirements for school enrollment. Many school employees as well as city employee and workers in private businesses commute from Aransas Pass or Flour Bluff because they no longer can afford to live on the Island.

This is also a factor in school enrollment as middle class families are priced out of the housing market in Port Aransas and forced to move elsewhere.

Obviously, a key factor in the rising property prices on the island is that it is a popular tourist destination and, as such, has attracted a lot of developers who have flooded the market with properties for second home buyers and investors seeking to profit from short term rentals. All this development has pushed property taxes higher.

All of this has made a bad situation worse.

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By Tom Pauken

December 16, 2016      1:54 PM

Smith: The Bum’s Rush on Democracy

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Donald Trump is an existential threat to democracy and wonders when democracy loving conservatives will move to stop him and his allies

There’s a gold rush quality to these pre-Donald Trump administration days. Maybe it’s better to say it’s a Bum’s Rush on Democracy and what was once exceptional about America.

The elevators of Trump Tower in Manhattan are stuffed full of the ostentatiously obsequious: oilmen and wannabe oligarchs looking enviously upon Vladimir Putin’s Russia for their very own Christmas Futures. They didn’t even have to go to Sarah Palin’s porch to see Russia.

FBI Director James Comey has pictures.

At least we can put one over-the-top comparison to rest: Trump is no Adolph Hitler.

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By Glenn W. Smith

December 13, 2016      5:02 PM

O’Donnell: The truth about fake news

Our resident curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell argues there has always been fake news – what’s changed dramatically is the speed with which “news” can be delivered and the ease with which anyone with a computer can create “news”

Funniest post-election kerfuffle: All-around outrage about “fake news.” Call it what you will --- propaganda, disinformation, press relations, marketing, advertising, plain ol’ B.S., et al --- “fake news” has been a fact of our commercial, social and political lives for so long a great number of our most cherished ideals come directly from this process.

First, let’s be clear about the purpose of “news.”

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By Edd O'Donnell

December 12, 2016      3:34 PM

Greenfield: Is it really the season to be jolly?

Quorum Report’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says the ending balance in January will likely be sufficient to cover anticipated emergency appropriations like CPS and Medicaid but not sufficient to cover the $2.75 billion that can be expended in a supplement budget

Across academic institutions, John 8:32 is often cited “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Prior to Tuesday, November 8, Stuart 1:1 co-opted that statement with, “when you know the data, the data will lead to better decision-making.”

The election aside, let’s look at the state’s fiscal data through the 1st quarter of FY17 in somewhat more depth than provided at the recent LBB Meeting.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

December 9, 2016      4:59 PM

Smith: Bent Knees Stay Bent

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the imperial Donald Trump wants Americans to bend our knees to him. We should remain upright

 It’s not easy watching adult Americans sacrifice their pride and self-esteem so they can be ushered like serfs across the fake-gold lobby of Trump Tower for audience with a president-elect.

If we hold to the nation’s mythos, it’s a rather un-American impulse. True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn wouldn’t do it. For many, though, it seems there are unconquerable desires to be close to power or to have power embrace their interests.  

Some, of course, go there for apparently selfless reasons, hoping their fealty persuades Donald Trump to let a little light shine into his otherwise closed-tight-as-gold-vault mind. Still, it rattles democratic souls to know how most of the televised lobby crawls will end once the penthouse threshold is crossed: “Oh please oh please, I beg of thee, can I at least be undersecretary of something oh Majestic One?”

The very concept of a “presidential tower” rankles. Marry it to Trump’s ego, which is satisfied by nothing less than absolute glorification, and it’s just too much. It makes it worse to know that Trump understands exactly what he’s doing by forcing others to climb to his presence in his phony Olympus.

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By Glenn W. Smith

December 2, 2016      1:37 PM

Smith: Trump Treasury Secretary Nominee Took His Voter’s Home

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith asks what should be done as Donald Trump (and stateside backers) prepare to take America to the cleaners

The Associated Press reported that Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Stephen Mnuchin, foreclosed on the home of a Trump voter. Needless to say, the voter, a Los Angeles-area voter named Teena Colebrook, feels betrayed.

Odds are the Associated Press story will disappear into the memory hole rather quickly. But, then again, maybe Mnuchin’s very name is a mnemonic, a device for remembering. We should hope so, because we should remember this story.

It’s a remarkable moment in our political history, and it should be seen as such by all, no matter their party affiliation, ideology and political knowledge level. It’s remarkable enough that someone like Trump can be elected. Sure, he took a significant beating in the popular vote, but the rules of the game hand him the White House through the Electoral College. So there’s that.

But even more remarkable is Trump’s immediate moves.

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By Glenn W. Smith

November 30, 2016      4:15 PM

Pauken: Preparing for a turbulent four years

From the Right: Former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Pauken argues that Trump’s detractors are the reason the next four years will be rough

During the campaign for the presidency, the major media was relentless in its attacks on Donald Trump. Reading the Washington Post daily, I couldn’t believe the news coverage. It was one anti-Trump story after story. The reporters didn’t even bother to disguise what clearly were opinion pieces passing for news. “Racist”, “sexist”, “anti-Semite” were just some of the charges leveled against Trump during the campaign.

Yet, in spite of massive media opposition to him and “nevertrump” Republicans who did all they could to defeat him, Trump overcame the odds and pulled a stunning upset to win the presidency.

In an effort to bring the country together, Trump gave a conciliatory victory speech. He even said the Clintons had suffered enough and he wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.

That obviously wasn’t good enough for the elites who had invested so much in Clinton’s election.

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By Tom Pauken