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July 22, 2016      12:00 PM

Smith: How the GOP can stop fraud – quit talking

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that if Texas GOP officials really want to stop fraud, they should just stop talking. Federal courts twice called them out for misleading the public and the courts – on anti-abortion and Voter ID bills.

What are Texas Republicans to do? First, a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s Voter ID law discriminated against minorities. Then, their favorite son, Sen. Ted Cruz, got in an embarrassing playground slap fest with Donald Trump, who they were busy unifying behind as their presidential candidate. The world is so unfair.

To make matters worse, Trump’s daughter Ivanka said Trump supported both government-backed childcare and mandatory equal pay for women. Who knew Trump was a Secret Socialist?

These contradictions can and probably will be tossed into the GOP’s muddy waters of denial and the forgotten. The loss of the state’s Voter ID law, the nation’s most severe restriction on voting, is another matter. That was their Great Wall against change in Texas.

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 18, 2016      12:00 PM

Emmert: An Open Letter to Republican Trump Naysayers

As the RNC opens in Cleveland, former Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert writes, “I would have much rather had Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz as our nominee. But they didn’t win, so I’ll take it like a man and support our nominee.”

The Republican National Convention is getting underway in Cleveland now and with it a chorus of people proclaiming that the end of the GOP is at hand. If they are the chorus, then the verse is sung by those who claim, with a healthy amount of righteous indignation, that they are leaving the Republican Party for good.

To those two groups, I have a simple message: Get over it.

I’m reminded of the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

For the past six months, some in the GOP have offered nothing but whining. I’m looking at you, Bill Kristol. You all would have been satisfied had your candidate won, but he or she didn’t. Now Donald Trump is our nominee. That’s how the process works.

It’s called democracy. Look it up.

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By Wade Emmert

July 14, 2016      4:51 PM

Smith: Unity, “With Actions and in Truth”

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that if Gov. Greg Abbott means what he says about unifying all Texans, he should demand repeal of the state Voter ID law, end the political ghettoization of minorities, and provide equal access to education and health care.

On July 8, the day after the tragic murders of five Dallas police officers, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “In times like this we must remember - and emphasize - the importance of uniting as Americans." In an “Open Letter to Texas” released that same day an entitled, “A Time to Come Together,” Abbott repeated his call for unity.

Abbott was deservedly praised for his calming words in the aftermath of the Dallas attack on law enforcement officers. His comments were made all the more poignant when it became known he was suffering from second and third degree burns on his lower legs at the time. He had insisted on leaving a Wyoming hospital against physicians’ advice to be present in Dallas.

It is not too soon to ask whether Abbott meant what he said in Dallas.

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 11, 2016      12:00 PM

Emmert: State Leaders Prime the Pump for the Next Legislative Session

From the Right: Because the election of consequence in Texas falls in March instead of November, former Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert reminds us that statewide leaders are already looking ahead to 2018

State lawmakers are technically up for reelection in November, but officials elected statewide are in the middle of their terms and they are already charting their legislative session strategy. While not running against Democrat opponents, they are running against the ghost candidate of perception in a state where the conservative electorate is increasingly moving to the right.

The challenge for these statewide officials: Continue pushing a conservative agenda by highlighting the hot-button issues important to the Republican primary voters while avoiding alienation of mainstream Texans.

Public perception of conservative bona fides is everything in Texas politics. In many districts, and in the state at large, Democratic opponents are not the concern. To avoid being flanked from their right, statewide officeholders must be perceived as being principled conservatives on the issues that matter most to Republican primary voters.

This makes controversial issues — especially those that will take significant dollars to fix — extremely dangerous.

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By Wade Emmert

July 8, 2016      12:01 PM

Smith: "The Most Durable Power": The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Tragedy in Dallas.

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith turns to Dr. King for advice.

I am not sure what to write.  In the aftermath of the terrible attack on Dallas police, however, words must be written and spoken if only to prove their worth in the struggle against hate. We can’t begin to speak, though, without first answering Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s plea for support for law enforcement officers under his command and for police everywhere in America. As one of the Black Lives Matters Dallas marchers said in an interview today, the police were there for us and we are there for them.

At the same time, we must not forget the other innocent lives lost to brutal violence in recent days, weeks and years. I haven’t had this tight, empty feeling in my gut since the night I heard that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot to death in Memphis. Precious lives have been lost, and I fear that something else is being lost as well.

King warned us. Here’s a piece he wrote called “The Most Durable Power,” published by Christian Century in June, 1957, 59 years ago:

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 8, 2016      12:05 AM

Emmert: Unanswered questions in Dallas bring unexpected hope

Former Dallas County GOP Chairman says “Today's political climate…fosters stalemate when trying to answer society’s most difficult questions” but there are signs that things can get better

Editor’s note: Former Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert decided to offer his heartfelt reaction to last night’s events in the city he calls home. QR is pleased to share his thoughts with you – SB

The echoes of the gunshots have faded, leaving a city, state and nation struggling to find answers to difficult questions. If only we could extract the politics, I would have more confidence in finding those answers.

The tragic shootings in Dallas last night bring together a perfect political storm: gun rights and regulation, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the relationship between citizens and police officers, all with the backdrop of race relations.

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By Wade Emmert

June 28, 2016      4:39 PM

Greenfield: You Go State Agencies

QR’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says all funds state expenditures have increased by nearly 11 percent so far this fiscal year

While state tax collections are increasing at a negative rate (-6.9) markedly less than in the current estimate (-3.8 percent) in FY16, state agencies are hitting it out of the ball park. Through May, 2016 all funds state expenditures have increased by 10.9 percent.

As shown in Figure 1, this rate is the highest rate this century, being almost one percentage points greater than the 10.0 percent increase in FY08. This rate of increase is over twice the annual compound rate (5.1 percent) of growth experienced this century.

Keep up the great work, state agencies!

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By Stuart Greenfield

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