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November 26, 2014      1:26 PM

Darby: Proposal will extend and expand border surge

Rep. Drew Darby lays out the facts of the proposal to keep the border surge going into the New Year

As a member of the Legislative Budget Board, I’m looking forward to voting on Monday to extend and expand the state’s law enforcement surge in the border region. The proposal agreed to by the state’s leadership continues this state’s strong commitment to border security.

The proposal from Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus significantly increases the presence of Department of Public Safety troopers along the Texas-Mexico border.

This plan provides $65 million to continue increased DPS activity through August 31, the vast majority of which will provide needed overtime pay for state troopers. Using those resources for overtime provides the equivalent coverage of hiring an additional 650 troopers to patrol the border region – but at about half the cost. This is a smart investment of our resources that will build on the success of Operation Strong Safety II that was launched this past fall.

In addition to allowing more patrol hours, it will also fund additional equipment and technology, as well as more aircraft flight time. Each of these is an important component of our fight against criminal elements along the border.

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By Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo

November 21, 2014      11:54 AM

Stanford: Will the GOP hold it together?

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues Republicans can save themselves by embracing immigration reform, rather than fighting the President on it

Nothing is less important in Washington these days than how Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration will affect millions of unauthorized immigrants. Obama has turned a population roughly equal to Alabama into taxpayers who can live in America without fear of deportation, and this town yawns. All anyone really wants to talk about is whether the Republicans will completely freak out or manage to hold it together long enough for the government to function. 

And by “function,” no one is thinking that Congress will do anything so radical as pass laws or other things imagined as normal by the Founding Fathers. No, the nightmare scenario for Republicans is a mass of anger and confusion that could derail their plans to govern just as they got control of Congress. Put simply, the right hand doesn’t know what the far-right hand is doing.

The choice is coming down to suing the President, which no one thinks will work, defunding the President’s immigration executive order, which the Republican House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers says is impossible, and of course shutting down the government in some sort of a legislative tantrum. So far, Republican leaders have managed to keep impeachment off the table, but no one thinks the relative peace will last. That’s how angry they are.

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By Jason Stanford

November 20, 2014      2:38 PM

Greenfield: The Year That Was – State Expenditures in Fiscal Year 2014

Economist Stuart Greenfield on where the dollars really went

Along with the increase (6.0 percent) in total revenue, total expenditures also increased by a substantial amount (6.6 percent) in fiscal year 2014 (FY14).  Of the $6.2 billion increase in state expenditures in FY14, over half (50.6 percent) was accounted for by the increase in Public Assistance Payments, primarily Medicaid, while 20.5 percent of the increase was for public education.

As shown in Table 1, two items, public assistance payments (38.5 percent, an increase from FY13), and public education payments (24.7 percent, a decrease from FY13) accounted for almost 2/3rds of state expenditures. 

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

November 19, 2014      3:56 PM

O’Donnell: 2014 Democratic butt-kicking calls for ruthless examination of that party’s future

QR's resident curmudgeon with his rundown of advise for Texas D's

Before Texas Democrats try exorcism, a collective mikvah or consultation with the spirit of Edgar Cayce to get a handle on the future of their party, they might resort to a cold-hearted inventory of the seemingly hopeless state of mind and body of their organization. Here’s a few items they might want to look at closely:

Stop whining about Obama. --- On election night I heard at least three bright young Democrat operatives blaming the President’s low approval rating for fueling the party’s epic fail. Get real. Obama was never a significant factor in this Texas debacle one way or the other. All this kvetching makes you sound like Republicans.

Whiz kid consultants from elsewhere don’t hunt here. --- When Wendy Davis brought in campaign consultants fresh from the Obama re-election she was doomed. Texas is like no other state politically, geographically, demographically, economically or spiritually. There are so many different “Texases” no cookie cutter campaign techniques will work. Battleground Texas? You win some. You lose some. But these people don’t even know where to buy tickets.

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By Edd O'Donnell

November 18, 2014      5:13 PM

Bearse: A Pocketful of Gruber

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist argues there is a right way and a wrong way for the GOP to oppose President Obama’s promised executive action on immigration

Our constitutional law professor in chief will always seize a political opportunity, even if it creates a constitutional crisis. In theory a president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” After all, it’s in the Constitution. But President Obama is making a different calculation: that Republican objection over a constitutional separation of powers issue will be overshadowed by the political benefit resulting from his executive order on immigration.

Here is the trap he is trying to set for Republican candidates running for president: oppose his order on constitutional grounds, and then spend months answering whether alternatively you would deport those 4.5 million people. He wants Republican candidates to oppose the order in the primary, and have it come back to bite the nominee in the general.

This is a president who locked down war memorials from veterans to make a point about the government shut down. He will do anything to advance his political goals. He will even tell you if you like your doctor, you can keep him. He has proven he will say anything, and do anything to win a political victory. He has a pocketful of Gruber.

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By Eric Bearse

November 17, 2014      4:24 PM

Enriquez: Resounding Republican victory means it is time to get things done

Co-founder of Glasshouse Policy points to data that says even in a GOP dominated Legislature, bipartisan bills have the best chance of passage

As the dust settles from the recent election, it is clear that the 84th Texas Legislature will look a lot like the 83rd Legislative Session, including Republican dominance of the Texas House and Senate, and control of key leadership roles statewide. So, it would be wise for policy practitioners to learn from the successes of the previous session and try to repeat those successes this time around.

Glasshouse Policy crunched the numbers from the 83rd Session and the data confirms that the clearest path to getting things done begins with Republicans and Democrats working together. In fact, our research reveals that a bipartisan-authored bill filed in the Texas House of Representatives was nearly 6 times more likely to pass than a bill filed by same-party legislators.

We arrived at this conclusion after taking a close look at the political parties of the joint-authors of every bill filed in both the Texas House and Senate. For the purposes of our report, bills jointly authored by at least one member of each political party are considered to be “bipartisan.”

What did we find when our analysis was complete? Bills coauthored with bipartisan support, while rare, were more likely to become law than their single-party counterparts. And, interestingly, despite the success of collaborative bills, there were relatively few bipartisan bills filed.  

Here are some of our key findings:

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November 14, 2014      3:12 PM

Stanford: Make Election Day a Holiday

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford says designating Election Day a national day off from work just makes sense

Apparently, you’re pretty busy. I’m a little surprised that you have time to read the paper, frankly. And you’re not alone. Only 36% of our countrymen bothered to vote in the midterm elections. A lot of people were busy that day.

Unless we are prepared to admit that control of Congress will be determined largely by non-voters, we need to take a fresh look at reinvigorating the basic currency of democracy—voting. And that’s exactly why Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wants to make Election Day a national holiday.

Turnout in the midterm elections hasn’t been this low since 1942, and back then my grandmother was busy changing my now 72-year-old dad’s diaper. Grandpa Stanford was busy, too, fighting fascism in Europe. So if turnout was a little low in the middle of World War II, I’m willing to give the Greatest Generation a pass.

But a lot has happened since then. We lowered the voting age, passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and, with the Motor Voter Law, made it easier to register to vote. The United States has systematically welcomed more and more Americans into the fold, and now what? Voting? Eh, who has time?

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By Jason Stanford

November 11, 2014      3:52 PM

Bearse: Election Day Reaction

From the right: A thoughtful piece with some new insights about what happened and what is to come

We tend to over-react to election results in the days and weeks that follow. Two years ago President Obama earned re-election despite the worst economic recovery since World War II. Now he is a political plague upon his party, taking down anyone with a D by their name unless they live close to saltwater.

Has Obama forgotten how to do politics? I doubt it. He just never could do policy. His policies aren’t working, and the sample size was large enough to give Americans pause. He is left to claim a mandate from people who didn’t vote, ignoring the voice of the folks who did. But does that mean the Republican wave will continue for another two years? Maybe, but it’s no sure thing.

Republicans are faced with the reality that we have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, even when conditions were ripe to defeat the Democratic incumbent just two years ago. Instead, we lost every battleground state. Looking forward, Democrats have the task of awakening a demoralized base, and Republicans have the task of widening the tent.

In the president’s final two years, he is no longer inhibited by a Senate in Democratic hands. He can run against Congress without hesitation. The battle lines are clearer. He already seems primed to pick a fight with Republicans in Congress, on amnesty for illegal aliens. My belief is he thinks Republicans will over-react, and respond too angrily. He hopes to drive a wedge between the GOP and Hispanics on this issue, on the basis of tone. We will see.

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By Eric Bearse

November 7, 2014      4:50 PM

Stanford: When the herd is wrong

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford goes in-depth on how polls can get it all wrong in the same way

So, that was fun. One minute we’re promised a half dozen toss up races to determine control of the United States Senate, and the next Democrats are ducking under their desks as Massachusetts and Maryland elected Republican governors. Let the Very Important Pundits take turns on cable news assigning blame for the losses. I’m more interested in why the polls didn’t tell us the wave was coming.  

Most of the electoral forecasts that aggregated polls predicted a likely Republican takeover of the Senate, but each race was supposed to be close. Alaska and Iowa were supposed to be 1-point races. Only 2-3 percent separated the candidates in Colorado. New Hampshire and North Carolina were close, but Democrats were favored in those races. And that was just the public polls.

Privately, Democratic pollsters were not nearly as bearish. They spoke of the problems polling Hispanics in Colorado, the native population in Alaska, and the new African American influx into the Atlanta suburbs. There was complicated talk about the messed up statistical modeling in the public polls. We’ll be fine in North Carolina, they assured all who paid to listen to their advice.

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By Jason Stanford

November 4, 2014      3:02 PM

Bearse: My Program of Recovery

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist with a much-needed dose of comedic relief as we get ready for what happens after the election.

This weekend, I escaped. I camped in the woods with my cub scout. I drank coffee with cub scout parents who wear lights on their heads. I slept in a sleeping bag on a 48 degree night. Not once did I think about the election. It was nice.

Today it ends. For some, mercifully (Democrats, I am looking at you). For others, joyfully. The winners will plan their ascent to office. The losers will engage in recriminations. Battleground Texas will blame Wendy Davis. Her camp will blame them for not sharing data. They will throw up on the front page of the newspaper, vomiting grievances. As for me, I won’t even read it. My long hibernation from politics begins.

This year, I am even entering a 12-step program for political operatives. I already took step one, admitting I am powerless over politics, and that my life has become unmanageable. Is that really hard to see? The other day I poured water into the toilet. I thought I was watering a plant. Not even my email is manageable, let alone my life. The addictive nature of this political disease is cunning, baffling, powerful.

Step two: came to believe that a power greater than myself could relieve me of my politicalism. I start with the first two words of that step: I “came to,” awaking from a six-month binge of fake twitter accounts, google alerts, and the conference call hell that is this disease. My head pounds, asking, “why did I do it again? I have sworn it off so many times before.” And then I swear it off again, vowing never to return. In my soul I know it’s not true, but with all the desperation of a drowning man I turn to that mystical power that can relieve me: reruns of Hank Moody.

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By Eric Bearse

November 1, 2014      12:20 PM

Stanford: Partisanship, for lack of a better word, is good

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford says both war and politics are expressions of the same truth – that some things are worth fighting about.

Partisanship, for lack of a better word, is good. You won’t find a more unexamined assumption in America today than a sneering contempt for partisanship. Yet partisanship persists, an evolutionary fact of life in our democracy because it is an ineffable expression of the American experiment. Partisanship isn’t just what we do instead of shooting each other but how we express our moral values.

It used to not be so. Being a partisan a generation or two ago meant trucking with many people you disagreed with. The Democratic Party was a coalition of people who couldn’t stand each other for ideological reasons. This is sometimes true today, but for personal reasons. Whatever our interpersonal gripes, and they are legion, we all largely agree on questions of right and wrong and what is important to us.  

Our partisanship is now not a marriage of convenience but an expression of our moral values. On the big issues of the day—marriage equality, economics, feminism—we agree. That’s why we’re all Democrats now. And the same goes for Republicans, more or less. This realignment of our two major parties along ideological lines has turned our politics from an endless series of moral compromises into a larger debate about right and wrong. Is that so wrong?

We were once divided along ideological lines before, and it led to the Civil War. Out of that national horror, the philosophy of pragmatism was born, and for more than a century we made concessions for the greater good. (I am, of course, oversimplifying things. This is a column, not a college seminar, and I must have left my Ph.D. in my other pants.) 

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By Jason Stanford

October 29, 2014      3:28 PM

Greenfield: Here We Go Again

Surging state revenues continue to be ignored by Comptroller; next Lege may have $20 billion more than Combs' office estimates

In 1967, Ray Charles released “Here We Go Again” lamenting the return of a girlfriend.  That song is quite appropriate following the release of September’s revenue collections by Comptroller Combs.  According to the Comptroller’s News Archive, there has been no mention of either the growth in state tax collections for FY14 (6.7 percent) or the increase (10.7 percent) for September, 2014, the first month of FY15.  So, “here we go again,” with a lack of the true fiscal situation of the state from the Comptroller.

Table 1 below shows the actual year-to-date percentage increase in monthly state tax collections for FY10 through FY15) and the current estimate growth rate (for FY14 and for FY15) from Comptroller Combs.

Over the last three fiscal years, the estimated growth in tax collections provided by Comptroller Combs has been significantly less than the growth realized by the state.  Unless there is a dramatic downturn in the Texas economy this fiscal year, something no economic forecaster, not even Comptroller Combs, is projecting, the growth in realized tax collections will be at least three times the rate (1.9 percent) in the current estimate.  This should result in the current Fiscal 2015 Ending Certification Balance increasing from $2.6 billion to a minimum $7.5 billion.  This nearly $5.0 billion increase is the minimum increase as the state should expect reduced public education outlays as local property tax collections continue to exceed the amount the state expected to be collected.  Given the continued growth in the Texas economy and immigration, we should expect local property tax collections to exceed the amount forecasted to support the Foundation School Program.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D

October 28, 2014      5:08 PM

Bearse: Festivus for the Rest of us

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist argues that Democrats are resorting to fear in the closing days of the campaign

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the politics of grievance coming from Democrats. They live in a constant state of Festivus, airing a laundry list of grievances and identity attacks as if they have nothing else to talk about.

A Democrat in Congress calls North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis, “Uncle Thom.” The Democrat running against South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said, “we are going to escort whore out the door.” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said about the governor of Wisconsin, “Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality…What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.” Apparently not satisfied with assailing Republicans with images of domestic violence, DWS invoked ebola and terrorism to describe her friends on the other side of the aisle, saying, “So, it seems that the Democrats’ overall message is yes, ISIS is scary. Yes, Ebola is scary, but Republicans are a lot scarier.”

The heck with Ebola tents, let’s quarantine America from Republicans!

This is a tried and true technique of Democrats to rile up the base. They thrive off resentment. Even their loftier sentiments cloaked in fairness have an unspoken message: that you are entitled to better, and would be better off if the boogiemen oppressing you were made to heel. If only we took more from those who are financially successful we could make the world a better place. Not every Democrat speaks against the “evils” of capitalism, but every time someone does they are a Democrat. It’s about the only time they think Darwinian theory is not gospel.

To live in a state of grievance, you have to believe you are not responsible for your own fate, for your own happiness, for your own family. That is the responsibility of government, which rights social wrongs and redistributes to favored constituencies.

The Democratically-contrived “war on women” stokes the fires of gender resentment. This is how Senator Leticia Van de Putte can run an ad misleading all of Texas on the premise that Senator Dan Patrick thinks there are legitimate differences about rape, without nary a protest of outrage from the sleeping supplicants in the press. Patrick’s statement was really about whether abortion should be legal in the case of rape, but those are silly nuances for those playing the gender card. It is the most disgusting, disingenuous ad of the election cycle, which is saying a lot if you have been victimized by Wendy Davis’ ads.  

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By Eric Bearse

October 24, 2014      12:05 PM

Stanford: We reached Peak Gohmert

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues, among other things, that the Ebola scare has helped produce an epidemic of fear and ignorance

I wasn’t in favor of shutting off travel to Ebola countries until Rwanda and Tanzania started screening travelers from Texas. You never know what kind of crazy viruses could spread. The last thing developing nations need is an epidemic of Yee Haw conservatism from the likes of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.

People have gone a little nuts in Texas over Ebola, even though more people have played quarterback for the Washington Redskins this year than have died from Ebola in the United States. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas refused to admit a Nigerian student over Ebola worries even though there is no Ebola in Nigeria, which is more than Texas could say. If this is an epidemic, it’s one of fear, and it presents as an aggressive strain of stupidity.

And when it comes to dumb in Texas, Louie Gohmert is Patient Zero.

The Texas congressman sounded the alarm that “undocumented Democrats”—AKA, Central American refugees—were bringing Ebola across the border. His reasoning is that President Obama wants all these refugees to come, so a bunch of terrorists are going to sneak in with them, and they had Ebola. Because Obama.

“And, gee, since they’re coming across our border, and you know, they don’t get checked, and most of them don’t get really thoroughly checked, they could be coming in with disease that we simply do not need,” Gohmert said. “It’s silly not to be more careful.”

Well, he’s not completely wrong about it being silly.

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By Jason Stanford

October 21, 2014      4:12 PM

Bearse: Trick-or-Treat

From the right--Last minute campaign antics and shenanigans sometime amuse and infuriate

It’s trick or treat season for campaign politics. Lots of tricks, few treats. I am reminded of this every time I drive by a campaign sign. In my first campaign in 1994, over-zealous supporters of our opponent didn’t steal our signs or lay them on the ground, they just cut a big hole in them with a box-cutter. They just stood there as a shameless monument to misdemeanor shenanigans.

I don’t blame Martin Frost or Matt Angle for this high crime. Sixteen years later, our campaign had nothing to do with black-toothing one of our opponent’s teeth on her sign. Stuff happens. Her teeth were too perfect anyway.

Psychological ops are in full force. By now, more than one campaign has dropped a racy flier at four or five houses that happen to be in their opponent’s neighborhood. They want the candidate to think it went district wide.

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By Eric Bearse

October 17, 2014      3:58 PM

Stanford: Obama’s $1 Trillion Broken Promise

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that President Obama must be held accountable for his nuclear disarmament promises

How much would you borrow to buy something that you would never use and might kill you and everyone around you? If we’re talking about Uncle Sam’s outdated and useless nuclear arsenal, the price tag is $1.1 trillion. A better—and cheaper—idea might be doing what Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and a host of others wanted to do in the first place: Get rid of nuclear weapons.

Here’s the basic problem: We’ve got about 4,800 nuclear weapons in silos, on submarines, and in airplane hangars that need to be fixed like old root canals. They’re way past their sell-by date and more dangerous to us than to an enemy that no longer exists, writes Eric Schlosser in “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.” By the way, that is now the scariest book I’ve ever read. It makes Revelations look like a Lifetime Movie.)  

In a 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” noted hippies and peaceniks George Schultz and Henry Kissinger (both former Republican Secretaries of State) and William J. Perry and Sam Nunn (each a Democratic hawk), argued that deterrence was dead as a military strategy because of the threat of nuclear terrorism. Intelligence, not realpolitik, is what stops terrorists from getting the bomb. And what’s stopping Iran’s nuclear program isn’t our ICBMs but economic sanctions and diplomacy.

Getting nuclear weapons off this planet before we’re all killed is a bipartisan idea. At the Reykjavik summit, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev briefly agreed to “eliminate… all nuclear weapons” before hotter heads prevailed. Reagan wouldn’t give up our missile defense program, not understanding that the Soviet Union saw that as a threat.  

Inspired by Nunn, then-Sen. Obama worked diligently on nuclear non-proliferation in the Senate and made a nuclear-free world a goal of his foreign policy as president that he articulated best in 2009 speech in Prague.

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By Jason Stanford

October 16, 2014      11:58 AM

Coppedge: Many Texas Judges and lawyers are ignorant of or ignoring the law

Veteran of Texas judicial politics argues that criminal penalties might need to be available for judges in cases of breaking campaign finance law

There are some lawyers, judges, judicial candidates and individuals in Texas that are in clear violation of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.  This includes some of the wealthiest personal injury trial lawyers in Texas and some judges and candidates for trial courts as well as appellate courts.  It seems that they either cannot read and understand the law or choose to ignore it.

They are violating the legal contribution limits. In some cases the amounts involved are tens of thousands of dollars.  Some individual contributors have made well over one hundred thousand dollars in prohibited contributions over the past few years to numerous judges and judicial candidates.  The law provides only civil remedies but those include a state cause of action against both the recipient and the contributor for three times the amount involved.  The law also includes a cause of action by any opposing candidates against both the recipient and the contributor of twice the amount involved plus legal fees.

Many people do not fully understand the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. The folks violating it obviously must not.  Or they don't care – either because they don't think it will be enforced or that the potential penalties are not enough to dissuade them.

A law firm in Texas cannot write a check to a judicial candidate for more than the individual limit.

For a judicial race where the individual contribution limit is $5,000, a lar firm cannot make a $30,000 contribution. It can only make a $5,000 contribution. When added together with other contributions from anyone associated with that firm, the total cannot exceed $30,000. That is what many are either ignorant of or ignoring.

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By John Coppedge, MD

October 14, 2014      3:00 PM

Bearse: That Ad

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist argues that Sen. Davis’ wheelchair ad, and the fallout from it, demonstrates “the lunacy of identity politics”

Not to go all Kevorkian, but I am for campaign-assisted suicide. If Wendy Davis’ campaign wants to handle a delicate issue with a hammer instead of a scalpel, they have that right. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to recover damages for political malpractice, because Greg Abbott successfully defended caps. I’m joking. I am sure she will sue them when it is over, much like she did the newspaper in Fort Worth.

The greater issue with the Davis Campaign is their loose handling of the facts. Take the example in the ad of the doctor who botched surgeries under the influence of cocaine. They claim Abbott stepped in to help a major contributor on the hospital board. But in reality, Abbott’s role was to defend a law passed by the legislature. He was specifically defending the medical liability caps passed by the legislature, not intervening on behalf of the hospital. There is an important principle at work in many of Davis’ attacks: that Abbott should have ignored, in fact violated, his constitutional duties for the sake of empathy. The irony is he is the state’s lawyer, which includes defending the Legislature where she serves. Legislators would haul him before a committee if he took a pass on representing their interests when a lawsuit claims a statute is unconstitutional.

This line of attack is a pattern of the left. If they don’t like a law, or more specifically an outcome of the law, they expect attorneys general and justices to act against the law. They place the principle of empathy ahead of constitutional limits. Obama so much as said this when he declared in 2005, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." But the duty of a justice is always to follow the law. They are to divorce themselves of the passions of the mob to ensure the rule of law is upheld, and endures. Once we begin to hammer at the edifice of the law, it crumbles.

Perhaps more appalling is this notion that because Greg Abbott was partially paralyzed after an accident, he is somehow duty bound to always side with people who have been victimized. But the truth is you can feel terrible for a woman who is raped and not hold a vacuum cleaner company liable for the actions of a sub-contractor. If you believe the law requires it.

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By Eric Bearse

October 10, 2014      11:09 AM

Stanford: God Bless Texas

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that a real Texas Miracle would be if taxpayer dollars were treated as if they belong to taxpayers.

What would Jesus tip? A diner in Dallas is putting a Texas spin to the pay-what-you-want restaurant movement by asking patrons to pay what God wants them to. So far, it’s working, but this cute idea loses its shine when you realize that it’s almost exactly how Texas looks after the taxpayers’ money.

Dana Parris, the owner of Just Cookin’, says revenues have tripled since God told her to take the prices off the menu.

"He just came to me and said I don't need to do it, I need to let him do it," she said. "The way I could show I was giving God control was to give him control of the cash register."

Churches have been doing this for years, but Parris’ success probably won’t produce many copy cats in the hospitality industry. Come to think of it though, you could probably start a thriving restaurant chain in Austin by asking diners to pay what Darrel Royal would have wanted them to. In fact, there’s really not that much difference between Just Cookin’ and how Texas has been running government for a while.

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By Jason Stanford

October 7, 2014      1:37 PM

Bearse: Fear and Hope in the Mid-Terms

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse says “My fear is we will have an election where there is little conversation with non-primary voters. I am not talking about staged debates, but the day-to-day grist of fierce campaigning that appeals to the sensible center.”

“I’m not on the ballot this fall ... but make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot — every single one of them.” Those were President Obama’s words last week. Look for them in Republican ads all across the country.

This election has the feel of 2006 to me, when an unpopular president was being battered by daily reports of bad news overseas, and a domestic policy agenda that he literally surrendered right after he echoed the words “private accounts” in front of Congress. When the world goes to hell, you better have domestic policies you can pivot to in order to attract voters. Bush did not. Obama is in an equally perilous position.  

Think about the news cycle this year for the president.

There were reports that the incompetence of the Veterans Administration left our heroes on interminable waiting lists. Some died for a lack of treatment. Then there was the botched trade of five terrorists for a soldier held by the Taliban. This promising development went sour when his unit colleagues publicly expressed their opinion he was a deserter, and some died looking for him. From there we watched a new terrorist enemy march across large swaths of Iraq, killing indiscriminately in cities once secured by American blood. The surge in unaccompanied minors entering illegally across the Mexican border underscored a lack of enforcement troubling to anyone who can imagine more nefarious types exploiting the same border. Splash in reports of missing IRS emails, White House fence-jumpers, and Ebola in the U.S., and there is a growing sense in America that government is incompetent. This is worse than gridlock driven by partisanship. At least then the politicians express a desire to make government work. Our federal agencies have now proven it can’t.

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By Eric Bearse

October 6, 2014      4:11 PM

O'Donnell: Time for some common sense solutions to today's most pressing issues

From dueling to the death to loss of citizenship for failure to vote, our resident curmudgeon is back with a laundry list of ways to deal simply with some of our most complex problems

With an election a mere month away, my keenness for public service is at its peak. I wish to offer candidates and policy makers some truly rational solutions to many of the thorniest contretemps we face on the state, national and international fronts. That's not to say there is a dearth of ideas to counter these issues. I'm just certain that the ideas I'm offering are more direct and effective.

Non-campaign political conflicts: We're constantly annoyed with press reports of a couple of politicians locking horns over something that has nothing to do with serving voters and everything to do with their ambitions/egos. These things drag on without resolution and both blowhards are still with us.

Time to bring back dueling to the death.

Example: Under the rules of the bipartisan-funded North American Dueling Society (NADS) when Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after her DWI conviction, Governor Rick Perry could have questioned her honor and insisted on a duel, the winner to remain in office by virtue of being alive. At least we'd be rid of one of them. This should be applied to competing lobbyists and pundits.

Voter fraud:  There is more voter fraud committed during one day of a legislative session than in all the elections since LBJ was operating. Nevertheless, this non-issue is as good as any for attempting to hold down the number of registered voters of one stripe or another. The needed law is that every American of voting age must register to vote at the federal level or face being deprived of citizenship.

This registration would be simple. It would happen when you get a Social Security number. Anyone attempting to interfere with this registration in any way, legal or otherwise, would be deported to the nearest Islamic state.

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By Edd O'Donnell

October 3, 2014      2:19 PM

Stanford: Let women serve in combat

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that women have been fighting for this country all along so this shouldn’t even be a controversy

There was joke that made the rounds when Bill Clinton was trying to figure out how to allow gays in the military without upsetting morale. “Gays in the military,” the joke went. “Next thing you know they’ll want to be interior decorators!” Of course, gays have always served in our military. Now, after long last, they can serve openly, and as it turns out it is no big whoop.

Next up is the Great National Freakout about women serving in combat. On his way out the door, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened all military jobs to women, beginning a long process of the armed services appealing to keep certain jobs exclusively male. A great many women can’t wait to serve in combat positions. Good lord, next thing you know they’ll want to vote.

Of course, I understand why this idea makes people feel uncomfortable. I’m a dad. I speak stupid fluently, though I’m not sure I speak it as well as Fox NewsEric Bolling, who reacted to the sight of a female UAE fighter pilot with giggling misogyny.  

"Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?" he offered. "The problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn't park it."

As a columnist, I’m offended by his failed attempt at open-mic humor, but the Truman National Security Project—of which I’m a member—released an open letter signed by a dozens of severely PO’d veterans who were offended by more than just a blundered attempt at low humor.

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By Jason Stanford

September 30, 2014      4:15 PM

Bearse: Politics and Football

From the right--the Bellichek/Brady and Patrick/Van de Putte blues

If you watched the lieutenant governor debate last night, you are not normal. It means you chose to watch two members of “the world’s most deliberative body” over the Belichick-Brady meltdown, re-runs of Californication on Netflix, the plastically enhanced housewives, or flossing your teeth.

But if you have the sort of sick interests I have, you got a helluva show. Unlike the Abbott equivalent of the ground and pound, “three yards and a cloud of dust” debating style, Dan Patrick gave us an Art Briles laser show against an opponent almost as hapless as SMU. An aside: Senator Leticia Van de Putte is quite likable, and formidable on the senate floor, but last night she was too canned, and seemingly too practiced. Her voice sounded like an actress trying to remember her lines instead of a candidate trying to exude the fighting persona needed to change the trajectory of this race. She will be a much better foe in the senate than on the campaign trail.

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By Eric Bearse

September 30, 2014      4:00 PM

Coppedge: Statewide Judicial Races, 2014 Election

Lone Democrat on Court of Criminal Appeals and his many travails

The short version is there are four Texas Supreme Court races and three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals races.  The Repubicans will win them all. 

Democrates did not even field candidates in three races.  There are a handful of Libertarian and Green Party candidates but the Republican edge will make them inconsequential.

But this is the "Silly Season" when Democrats think that this will be their year.  Wendy Davis will lead them out of the electoral wilderness to the promised land, riding a wave of minority, labor, pro-choice, trial lawyer, liberal and LGBT support.  Ain't gonna happen this cycle.  Maybe someday but not now.

Incumbent Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (R) who one colleague once called "a Mt. Rushmore figure in the legal life of Texas"  will easily outdistance perennial candidate Judge Bill Moody (D) from El Paso.  This time, Moody is not even hiking across Texas in order to get publicity.  Maybe he thought the wave was coming.

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By John Coppedge, MD

September 29, 2014      12:39 PM

Householder: Lawyers for both sides proving Perry prosecution is not political

Veteran strategist Joe Householder argues neither side would behave as they are if the prosecution of the governor was a political witch hunt

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on television, but if what we’ve seen over the last few weeks in the matter of The State of Texas v James Richard Rick Perry is any indication, we’re in for both some potentially legendary Texas-style theatrics over the life of this case as well as some truly commendable lawyering – from both sides.

Make no mistake: the matter is serious. Even if you think the indictment is bogus the case raises fascinating questions about the parameters of proper behavior for Texas Governors, all of whom have struggled mightily to overcome the limits put on them by the state’s reactionary post-reconstruction constitution.

Nonetheless, it appears we’re in for a show of some tremendous courtroom skill, coupled with no small amount of political irony. Witness the first real skirmish, in which special prosecutor Michael McCrum condemned the governor for seeking a “special favor” in his request that he be permitted to skip many of the inevitable pre-trial procedural hearings.

What raised McCrum’s ire was a motion by Perry attorney Tony Buzbee that the governor be permitted to skip one upcoming hearing because of a pre-planned trip to Europe and – for that matter – all forthcoming “non-evidentiary” hearings. Buzbee says Perry fully intends to show up for all hearings in which evidence is discussed, but he shouldn’t have to attend many other procedural ones given his need to continue doing his day job.  

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By Joe Householder

September 26, 2014      3:18 PM

Stanford: Bomb Mexico

From the left--Foreign policy pronouncements for two GOP candidates are just jokes....except they are not

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a politician is crazy or just joking. The problem is usually that no one is laughing. Such was the case recently when two candidates offered a radical solution to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas border: Bomb Mexico. Serious or not, it shows how far the anti-immigrant tide has carried some politicians from realistically addressing border security and immigration reform.

The first example of this idea to turn South Texas into a war zone happened in June at a Republican candidate forum in North Carolina. Typically, these affairs encourage candidates to try to get to the right of each other in front of audiences of Republican activists, but even in this environment what Mark Walker said was so out there that Dick Cheney would have gasped in admiration.

In response to a question about drug cartels sneaking over our southern border, Walker, a Baptist preacher, preached war: “If we gotta go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”

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By Jason Stanford