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April 21, 2017      2:27 PM

Smith: Donner Party or City Upon a Hill?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the vision of America of today’s dominant GOP leadership has more in common with the doomed Donner Party than with a “Shining City Upon a Hill.”

In 1984, then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo gave the keynote address at the Democratic Convention. Cuomo spoke of Americans’ shared vision of the nation as “a shining city upon a hill.” It’s a favorite metaphor of our politicians, from John Winthrop in the 1600s to John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in the 20th Century.

Cuomo, however, used the reference to point out that in America, there is a part of the city that does not shine, places where the elderly huddle in unheated basements, where the young can’t afford college, where people can’t get health care. The New York governor received a lot of attention for his “Tale of Two Cities” talk.

But there’s another part of that speech that’s even more powerful. In it, Cuomo uses the great U.S. Western migration of the 1840s to paint a vivid picture of Democratic moral values and hopes for America:

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 10, 2017      4:38 PM

Greenfield: Legislators, Man Your Abacuses

QR’s Resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D., says cumulative growth in GRR is once again negative, which could be significantly bad legislators trying to finish a state budget as the House and Senate try to hash out their differences

In last month’s analysis of the state’s revenue situation, I was heartened because the rate of change in cumulative General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenue, and the rate of change in the rate of change was positive. 

Who could ask for anything more? Not me.  

However, things have changed quickly, as Figure 1 shows, the cumulative growth in GRR is once again negative. Through March 2017 GRR revenue is 0.2 percent less than the revenue through March 2016.  The Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) estimated that GRR would increase by 1.7 percent in FY17.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

April 7, 2017      6:02 PM

Smith: Good News, Bad News

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith applauds the common sense of House budget writers, but warns that Trumpism remains loose across the land

First, the good news. There was an outbreak of common sense in the Texas House of Representatives this week. Members voted to get us through drizzly economic weather and balance the budget by using $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day Fund. The Texas Senate, an “upper chamber” in name only, had instead employed an unconstitutional accounting trick involving now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t highway funds.

House members tried once again to drive a stake through the heart of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s zombie school voucher plan. It remains to be seen whether the anti-voucher budget language will hold, but it sure signals that an overwhelming coalition of rural and urban House members prefer the word “public” to define the state’s K through 12 schools.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 4, 2017      4:10 PM

Tassin: Senator Huffman's "Yes" Vote Saves the Voucher Bill

President of the Fort Bend ISD School Board argues against her senator’s acquiescence on SB3: “What is most troubling about this is that Senator Huffman stated she was against SB3 and admitted it is not good for the school districts she represents.”

Normally, we can look at a legislator’s vote on a bill and easily determine if they were for or against it. Simply put, constituents think a “yes” vote means the legislator supported the legislation and a “no” vote means they opposed it. But, at times our complicated political process is not that transparent. That’s what happened on Senate Bill 3 (SB3), the voucher bill.

Three Republicans voted against SB3 on the final vote – Senators Seliger, Nichols, and Huffman.

However, only one of those three Republican Senators, Joan Huffman, voted “yes” on the preceding vote to suspend the regular order of business and allow SB3 to proceed.

This was actually the critical vote that allowed SB3 to survive.

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By Kristin Tassin

April 3, 2017      4:23 PM

Simmons: Just Like the Hole in the Donut, There is no There, There

In this guest column, Rep. Ron Simmons argues “eliminating one punch voting will require all candidates to communicate their philosophies and positions clearly to the voters and not just hang on the coattails of a party brand.”

Editor’s note: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith took aim on Friday at a bill by Rep. Ron Simmons that would eliminate one-punch straight ticket voting. Since we’re happy to foster discussion here in the pages of Quorum Report, here is Rep. Simmons’ rebuttal – SB

I read with amusement (but unfortunately not surprise) liberal columnist, Glenn Smith’s recent prose relating to the elimination of one punch voting.

In case you missed it, here is what Smith said in his article (paraphrased of course) – The elimination of one punch straight ticket voting will hurt Democrats because Democrat voters are either incapable or too lazy to vote down the ballot.

Shame on you Mr. Smith!

The very idea that some voters are less likely to take their voting privilege seriously or with little importance if they can’t vote the entire ballot in with “one punch” is both insulting and degrading to the very people Smith purports to champion.

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By Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton

March 31, 2017      3:35 PM

Smith: The Case of the Stolen Donuts

Do Texas GOP Leaders Really Want to Discriminate Against Minority Voters Right Now? - QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the proposed ban on straight-ticket voting may lead to renewed federal supervision of voting laws

Republicans in the Texas Legislature are seriously considering banning “straight-ticket voting,” the one-click convenience that allows voters to choose all the candidates on the ballot from one party or another.

The bill, HB25 by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, is in the Calendars Committee in the House. With the support of Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, it could be headed for easy approval.

Think of Simmons’ bill as an easy, one-click Republican convenience that further suppresses the votes of Texas minorities, especially those in heavily populated urban areas. It’s the Republican’s own straight-ticket vote to give them a procedural edge at election time.  

Republicans need to think this through.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 30, 2017      12:33 PM

Villalba: Respectfully, Dan Patrick is just wrong on bathrooms

Dallas Republican argues that it is “precisely because of my conservative principles that I will NEVER accept discrimination, hatred, or bigotry”

The clock begins its inexorable tick to closing time and Republican members of the Texas Legislature such as myself are left to contemplate that which will define the session and our political legacies. Most of us will hew to the safety of orthodox convention. Others will wait until they receive the acquiescence of those who brought them to the dance to make their moves.

Me? I came to Austin to move the needle, shape the conversation and to speak the truth.

Senate Bill 6, the so-called "bathroom bill," is the most unserious attempt at galvanizing Republican primary voters in a generation.

It fails to solve a problem that doesn't even exist.

Under current Texas law, it is already illegal to: (1) trespass upon the private space of a citizen; (2) "peep" upon a citizen during a private moment; (3) assault a citizen in a sexual or non-sexual manner; or even (4) engage a person in an unreciprocated manner. The chance that our children – in schools or otherwise – are somehow at risk of nefarious trans-gender Texans assaulting them in showers or restrooms is simply non-existent.

I have tremendous respect for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He is a personal friend, a mentor, and one of the finest public servants that I have ever worked with in the state of Texas.

But I simply cannot support this legislation, which I believe is unnecessary and meant solely to placate LGBT-hating constituencies including Tim Dunn's Empower Texans and Steve Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Texas.

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By Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas

March 27, 2017      12:52 PM

Colbert: Original intent of the Economic Stabilization Fund

Former Rep. Paul Colbert, who authored the House Appropriations committee substitute that created the the Rainy Day Fund, explains it was done to “flatten out the available revenue stream from the up and down swings of the economy so that constant levels of services could be provided.”

With this past week’s hearings in Washington on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, attention has been focused on the concept of “originalism” espoused by Judge Gorsuch and more famously, by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Simply put, originalism is the principle or belief that the interpretation of the Constitution or a statute should follow closely the original intentions of those who drafted it.

In 1987, I authored the committee substitute for HJR 2 – the constitutional amendment that created the “Rainy Day Fund”, as the Economic Stabilization Fund is more commonly known.  I then was the person who laid the joint resolution out to the House on Second Reading and explained it to the members.

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By Former Rep. Paul Colbert

March 24, 2017      4:41 PM

Greenfield: State expenditures in FY17

In the second part of his budget analysis, our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield takes a look at expenditures and says halftime growth = -0.3 Percent

Last July when state officials realized that state revenue growth was less than expected, the state’s leadership asked agencies to reduce their budget requests for FY18-19 by 4 percent.  In January, following the release of the Biennial Revenue Estimate, the Governor imposed a hiring freeze on state agencies.  These actions would either reduce future expenditures, the former, or reduce current expenditures, the latter.

Unlike FY17 when all funds expenditures grew by 7.7 percent, see Table 1, expenditures through the first six months of FY17 have declined by 0.3 percent.  These changes in expenditures differ from the LBB all funds expenditures change for FY16 and FY17 of 2.8 percent and -2.8 percent, respectively.  For the current biennium, the LBB expects a 2.9 percent increase in expenditures (209.1 billion).  Using all funds expenditures reported by the Comptroller indicates that the increase will be 11.0 percent, with expenditures totaling $228.8 billion for this biennium.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

March 24, 2017      4:11 PM

Smith: Abbott and Patrick – The Fratricidal Politicking of ‘The Brothers Grim’ Hurts Texas

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Dan Patrick are engaged in an escalating race to the right to protect themselves from one another. It’s bad for Texas.

It’s not unusual for tensions to increase as a legislative session enters its get-some-things-done stage. Spring training is over. Games now count and the standings matter. But something is different this year.

Despite his protests to the contrary, there’s continual Capitol chatter that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick intends to either challenge Gov. Greg Abbott for governor or bluff him out of the race in 2018. Abbott appears to take the challenge possibility seriously.

Abbott doesn’t appear all that vulnerable until one considers how hard-right voters control Republican primaries. And Patrick may be betting that President Donald Trump’s popularity with GOP primary voters is enough to neutralize Abbott’s sizable fundraising lead.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 24, 2017      11:41 AM

Sandlin: Governor Says His Voice Is the Only One That Matters

TML argues that “if Texans feel warm and comfortable under a patchwork quilt, those who seek to do business here – and our Governor – should recognize and respect that.”

Destroying city neighborhoods one step at a time requires too much effort. So, Gov. Greg Abbott wants one sweeping state law to ban city residents from having a say in protecting the health, safety, and property values in their communities.

While the Legislature is debating dozens of bills to overturn local ordinances and voter approved referendums, Gov. Abbott said last week: “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach."

The Governor said this scorched earth approach was “more elegant.”  Maybe he meant more regal or more tyrannical.

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By Bennett Sandlin

March 23, 2017      4:50 PM

Greenfield: State Revenue Situation, Improving, but Not Great

As the House and Senate stake out their positions on the budget, our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield takes a look at the improving revenue situation. Tomorrow, he’ll look at the expenditure side of the equation

State revenue receipts, unlike Gaul, can be divided into two parts, General Revenue-Related (GRR) and non-GRR.  The former is the revenue stream that our legislators can appropriate with their complete discretion, while the latter, e.g., federal funds, is dedicated to a specific government activity, e.g., Medicaid, public education.

When Comptroller  Glenn Hegar released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) for FY18-19 on January 9, 2017, all hands immediately turned to Table A-1 which shows the funds that the Comptroller certifies is available to the Legislator to appropriate.  Table A-1 shows $104.9 billion available for the 85th Legislature for discretionary spending.

This $104.9 billion is $5.4 billion less than the Comptroller stated in the Certification Estimate, released in October 2015, would be available for FY16-17 and $2.9 billion less than the amount for FY16-17 in the current estimate.  This reduction in available revenue was anticipated, and the Governor and Legislative Budget Board took actions, hiring freeze, to reduce state expenditures for FY17.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

March 17, 2017      3:58 PM

O’Donnell: Return of the Evil Empire!

Our Senior Curmudgeon says Trump wants to take us back to the days of “atomic attack drills, ‘duck and cover,’ decontamination stations, fallout shelters, ICBMs, missile silos…and constant anxiety.”

About once a week these days I wake up and check my Mickey Mouse watch for the latest President Twump time. Too often I find that it has automatically turned back five or ten years. It was, therefore, no surprise when I found that it had turned back 60 years and a U.S. president was talking about our nation’s need to be at the “top” of the nuclear weapon food chain.

A recent New York Times report said we’re behind the Ruskies in nuclear weapons stockpiled. They have 7,300 atomic bombs while we only have 7,000. The remaining 1,000 dooms day devices available globally are sprinkled over our allies and foes. Most notably among the worrisome buggers are China with 260, Pakistan with 120 and the ever-popular North Korea with 10. Apparently having enough atomic weapons stockpiled to kill all living things on the planet is once again not sufficient to anyone’s national security.

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By Edd O'Donnell

March 15, 2017      6:12 PM

Pauken Trump's personnel problem

From the Right: Former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken says “Trump will learn the hard way that ‘personnel is policy’ and that the failure to have a core of people in place who share his views will doom his initiatives

Donald Trump ran on a campaign of controlling our borders, opposition to bad trade deals, bringing jobs home to America, rebuilding our manufacturing base, and ending our unnecessary intervention in wars that were not in our national interest. 

He also wanted to end our adversarial relationship with post-Communist Russia and make common cause with President Putin against the growing threat of radical Islam. During the campaign, Trump was very critical of the Bush/Romney Establishment wing of the Republican Party.  He also positioned himself as an economic nationalist in opposition to the globalist, Wall St. financial elite.

As he will soon find out, it is awfully difficult to carry out your agenda unless you select people who believe in those policies to run the White House and the various departments and agencies.

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By Tom Pauken

March 10, 2017      3:51 PM

Smith: From O-Care to No-Care

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues Paul Ryan revealed the GOP’s real goal when he said the healthy shouldn’t be asked to pay for the sick

When Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to explain his health care proposal he said something that many say betrayed his ignorance of how health insurance works. However, maybe Ryan knows exactly how health insurance works and he doesn’t like it.

Ryan, pointing to what he sees as the biggest problem with Affordable Care Act, said, “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It’s not working and that’s why it’s in a ‘death spiral.’”

Well, American health insurance was created in the late 1920s and early 1930s on exactly that premise.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 7, 2017      7:45 AM

Hotze and Woodfill: No Men in Women's Bathrooms!

In favor of SB 6: Dr. Steve Hotze and CRT PAC President Jared Woodfill argue that Dan Patrick is a “bold leader,”, the NFL has been “hijacked by the homosexual movement,” and the TAB “stands for men in women’s restrooms”

Editor's note: As the Texas Senate gets down to work on the bathroom bill, we wanted to make the Capitol community better aware of the arguments on both sides and who is making them.

So, today we present dueling op-eds. In favor of SB 6, anti-LGBT activist Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill, both of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, make their case in favor of the bathroom bill. Meantime, we invited Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace to make the case against it.

Here is the argument presented by Dr. Hotze and Mr. Woodfill – SB

It’s time for Texas to be the “shining City [state] upon a Hill” described in Matthew 5:14.  Who would have thought that we would be arguing over whether a man should be allowed to enter a women’s restroom?  Unfortunately, our country and state are now being inundated with the liberal left’s most recent social agenda, allowing those who are gender confused, i.e., biological males, to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms under the protection of law. 

When given the opportunity to vote on liberal Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance in Houston, Texas in 2015, voters overwhelmingly rejected the dangerous ordinance that would have allowed men into women’s bathrooms, 61% - 39%.  Not surprisingly, when the people have a chance to vote on this part of the LGBTQ agenda, it is overwhelmingly rejected. 

Unfortunately, the will of the people has never been an impediment to the LGBTQ liberal social agenda or radical political movement.

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By Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill

March 7, 2017      7:42 AM

TAB: Discriminatory Legislation Hurts Texas

Against SB 6: Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace argues “We have far more to lose than gain from the passage of any legislation that would encourage discrimination.”

Editor's note: As the Texas Senate gets down to work on the bathroom bill, we wanted to make the Capitol community better aware of the arguments on both sides and who is making them.

So, today we present dueling op-eds. In favor of SB 6, anti-LGBT activist Steve Hotze and Jared Woodfill, both of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, make their case in favor of the bathroom bill. Meantime, we invited Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace to make the case against it.

Here is the argument submitted by Mr. Wallace – SB

Texas has one of the strongest business climates in the world. It is not strong enough, however, to avoid being damaged or destroyed by implementing discriminatory legislation. We would argue that it is already being damaged just by the talk of such legislation at our State Capitol.   

Last session, we fought the expansion of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

At that time, Indiana also had approved similar legislation that caused widespread economic boycotts of that state. That law was soon modified, but the economic effects went on for months. Our state lawmakers saw what was happening in Indiana and considered what kind of damage could have resulted in Texas, and the legislation died.

This session there are a number of “bathroom bills” that are similar to legislation passed in North Carolina. Since that legislation was enacted, the negative economic impact has been severe. 

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By Chris Wallace, TAB President

March 3, 2017      1:02 PM

Smith: Want More Economic Freedom? Turn to the Democrats

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues the GOP has pulled off a long con, reducing economic opportunity and making Americans less free, while Democrats forgot to remind voters their own policies are aimed at economic security and opportunity.

Ever notice how Republicans describe institutions, policies, and programs they don’t like as a job killers?

Let’s make a list: Environmental protections, the Affordable Care Act, a path to citizenship for immigrants, unions, a mandatory living wage, equal pay for equal work, prohibitions on the use of taxpayer funding for elite private schools – all these things cost us jobs, according to the GOP.

The opposite, of course, is true.

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By Glenn W. Smith