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February 5, 2016      4:38 PM

Smith: On the Right, It’s Not the Rule of Law; It’s the Rule of Pa

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that it’s a hollow defense of the indicted Planned Parenthood attackers to say they couldn’t break the law because they meant well.

Remember the howls from the Right when Rick Perry was indicted for abusing his office? The indictment, he and his supporters said, was an attack on the Constitution and contrary to the “rule of law.”

Now, fast-forward to the recent indictments in Houston against the two activists who used forged IDs to infiltrate and videotape Planned Parenthood. Their lawyers – Jared Woodfill and Terry Yates – are arguing that they couldn’t break the law because their intentions were good.

It’s like that old song by The Animals: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 4, 2016      3:32 PM

Nelson: Texas is Committed to Women's Health

In op-ed, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson argues the Legislature’s intent “has always been in keeping with the will of Texans who do not want their tax dollars to support abortion, directly or indirectly”

Here they go again. This week researchers funded by supporters of Planned Parenthood released a new misleading “study” of women’s health in Texas. The conclusion faults Texas for excluding the abortion provider and its affiliates from government-subsidized programs.

The report published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine is based on a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study funded in part by the Susan T. Buffet Foundation, a major supporter of Planned Parenthood.  The study reviews claims in the Women’s Health Program and its successor, the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), from 2011 to 2014.  That program served 114,441 women in 2014.

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By Sen. Jane Nelson

January 29, 2016      1:00 PM

Smith: The Bucks Stop Here, but Not the Accountability

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that in the mind of the Right, conservatives cannot break the law because, like Nixon said, they are the law.

When a Travis County grand jury indicted then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, he protested that the indictments were an attack on the Texas Constitution and, in a favorite phrase, “the rule of law.” Of course, Perry is innocent until proven guilty, but he is neither the embodiment of the Constitution nor the law. He’s just a guy accused of crimes under the law.

When a Collin County grand jury indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton last year, his supporter and Republican money-man Tim Dunn called the charges “outrageous misuses of our justice system” in a piece in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Just recently, two anti-abortion activists were indicted by a Harris County grand jury in connection with their doctored “undercover” videotaping of Planned Parenthood. Their supporters are speaking of injustice once again and pointing out that a board member of Planned Parenthood works at the Harris County District Attorney’s office (Gasp!).

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 22, 2016      11:31 AM

Smith: Bunkum in Bedlam

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the Ted Cruzes and Ken Paxtons of the world have so filled Texas with bunkum that it’s time for a bunkum tax

If you’re looking for a word suitable in polite company to describe Sen. Ted Cruz’s behavior on the stump, you can’t do any better than “bunkum.” It means blarney (another great word!), and it entered the lexicon back in the mid-1800s. Congressmen shouted down a colleague from Buncombe, North Carolina for attempting a last-minute speech defending slavery. The speaker, Felix Walker, managed to have his speech published anyway. If he accomplished nothing else, he gave us the word bunkum.

Hats off to you, Mr. Walker.

Now, here comes Cruz telling us the Affordable Care Act cost him and his wife their health insurance. If you believe that, you’ll believe – with Felix Walker – that the abolition of slavery would enslave their former owners (he actually argued that).

Cruz said he lost his insurance when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas cancelled all of its individual policies in Texas. Bunkum. Blue Cross did not do that. Period. It did discontinue its PPOs and move us all to HMOs. I know, because I had an individual policy from Blue Cross. The insurer automatically signed me up for an HMO in 2016, though I chose to buy a different plan from the company.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 20, 2016      5:31 PM

Greenfield: Thank Heaven for President Obama as federal dollars keep rolling into Texas

QR’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield writes that absence an increase in federal revenue, Texas’ fiscal situation would be negative

Following Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s release of state revenue for December, I suggest that our state’s GOP leadership send President Obama a message he deserves to hear: Thank you!

The reason is simple. Without the increase in federal revenue through the first four months of this fiscal year, the state’s fiscal situation would be negative. 

Total state taxes, year-to-date, are over $900 million less than collected in FY15, while total state revenue is $117 million more than in FY15.  The recently released Certification Revenue Estimate forecast that both state taxes and total revenue would decline this fiscal year.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

January 18, 2016      10:02 AM

Remembering Royal--his obituary tells of a life well lived

Services Friday at 2:30 at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 5201 Convict Hill Rd in Austin

Royal Masset's entire obituary and arrangements for Friday's memorial can be found without password protection in today's R&D Department. It is well worth a read. Even this close friend did not know of all of Royal's accomplishments....HK.

Royal Andrew Masset died on January 12, 2016, in Laredo, Texas.  He was born on October 20, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York, to Aimee Toner Masset and George Rowe Masset.  He was named for his maternal grandfather, Royal Toner.  He moved to Austin in 1967 to attend law school.  Royal married Elsa Ramos Rodriguez in 2001.  They lived in Austin until 2013, when they moved to Laredo with their children, Isabel and Ernesto. 

Royal was predeceased by his parents, and his sister Jeanne S. Masset.  He is survived by his wife, Elsa, his daughter Isabel, and his step-son Ernesto Ramos Rodriguez.

Royal graduated cum laude from Princeton University with an A.B. in history in 1967, and from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas with a Masters of Divinity in 1976.  He attended the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and was licensed to practice law in Texas.  He was a member of the University Rotary Club of Austin, and served as its president.

Royal was a very giving, caring gentleman.  When Royal’s parents reached the age at which they needed help taking care of themselves and his disabled sister, he brought them all into his home in Austin to care for them in their final years, even as his own health began to falter.  He helped his wife Elsa with her restaurant business in Austin, and he cherished his children, of whom he was most proud.

Royal was proud that, as a young man, he had a revelation that the philosophy of liberalism was not the answer to effective governance.  After the 1972 election, Royal began reading up on conservative philosophy and ultimately became a true believer and advocate for limited government and individual freedom.

As a political professional and lawyer, Royal made significant impacts to the Austin and Texas political scenes.  He served as Executive Director of Austin Citizens League for seven years, and was instrumental in lowering Austin’s property tax rate from the highest of the largest 7 cities in Texas to the lowest. He also served as the Executive Director of Texas Taxpayers League, and coordinated the activity of 40 taxpayer groups.  As a lawyer, his case against the City of Austin resulted in a remarkable $53 million reduction in electric rates for one year alone.  In 1983, he served as counsel for the Committee on Intergovernmental Relations for the Texas House of Representatives, and worked part time for a number of state legislators analyzing legislation during multiple legislative sessions.

He worked for the Republican Party of Texas for fifteen years under various titles, most often that of Political Director.  There he developed the ORVS (Optimal Republican Voting Strength) system to target political races with great accuracy. ORVS was ultimately used in 16 states.  While on the RPT staff, the number of Republican elected officeholders increased from just over 300 to well over 1500 seats. The number of elected statewide officeholders went from zero to twenty-nine, which is all of the statewide officials.  Royal also saw the need to educate conservative political candidates, party activists, and campaign workers, so he created the RPT’s first campaign schools.  As the Republican Party gained new seats in the Texas Legislature, he initiated legislative orientations and training sessions on issues and legislative skills.  He trained well over 3500 candidates and activists at RPT campaign schools. 

He also served as CEO of Royal Masset & Associates, a political consulting firm, and was a respected contributing columnist for Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report, a newsletter focusing on Texas politics and government. 

Royal received the Rising Star Award in 1996 from Campaigns and Elections magazine.  This is the highest award given to political consultants.  He also was named as one of Austin’s Most Interesting People in 1980 by Austin Homes & Gardens magazine, and in 1977, Austin’s then-Mayor Carole Keeton issued a proclamation naming Royal a Distinguished Citizen in Austin.

Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler notes, “Without question, the [RPT] would not be as successful today without Royal Masset’s firm commitment to building our base and winning elections.”  Former President George W. Bush told Royal, "There are many Texans holding elected office today who I know are grateful that they had the opportunity to learn the techniques of campaigning from you. Our party has long looked to you to help prepare candidates for tough races, and you can be proud of the role that you have played in many Republican victories in every corner of our state.”

Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2016 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 5201 Convict Hill Rd., Austin, Texas 78749.  Memorial donations may be made to a charity or Republican candidate of your choice.

January 15, 2016      2:06 PM

Smith: I Feel Bad for Rick Perry

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith says that former presidential aspirant Rick Perry dressed for the legitimate theatre in a Vaudevillian election year, though Vaudeville was never so scary

I feel bad for Rick Perry.

That’s going to surprise you, as I’ve spent a good number of years opposing his policies and criticizing his cronyism and questionable ethics. So, why the sympathy?

Perry, like Sherman in the Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoons, spent four years with tutors preparing to be informed and serious. (Mr. Peabody to Sherman in the new Netflix film: “And remember, Sherman. Two plus three equals three plus two.”) Perry even donned a pair of Sherman-like glasses.

But Perry dressed up for a role in the legitimate theatre in a Vaudevillian election year. In retrospect, he might have been better off with Mr. Peabody, a mischievous genius given to amusing views of history and terrible puns.

We have to wonder what Perry was thinking if he wasn’t too busy lobbying for his former political donor in Florida and had time to watch Thursday night’s Republican debate. Compared to their collective disconnect from facts on the ground, as they say, Perry’s 2012 candidate shortcomings seem minor.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 8, 2016      3:43 PM

Smith: The Erasure of Political Opponents

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues Texas Republicans have escalated their wars on opponents, moving to erase them from politics rather than out-argue them

My Zilker Park-area voting precinct in Austin is a very active, progressive precinct. It votes about 75 percent for Democrats. Despite that, our congressman is Republican Lamar Smith, the right-wing extremist and anti-science chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

In 2012, Smith got just 23 percent of our votes against an unknown, unfunded Democrat. In 2014 there was no Democrat in the race and Smith managed just 35 percent of the vote in this precinct against a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate.

Plenty of other Austinites can make this complaint. Gov. Rick Perry, referring to the liberal nature of Austin in the Republican red state of Texas, called it the “blueberry in the tomato soup.” Well, the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering pretty much strained the blueberries out of the soup. Liberal Austin is represented by five Republican congressmen and one Democrat, Lloyd Doggett, who gets a sliver of the city to the south and east.

Austin voters have been erased as far as congressional elections go. We have been packed into heavily Republican districts that extend far beyond the city to make certain our political interests are unrepresented.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 6, 2016      1:56 PM

Coppedge: Texas appellate judicial elections

Longtime observer of judicial races across the state handicaps the ballot in this cycle

There are six statewide judicial seats on the ballot in 2016 – three on the Texas Supreme Court and three on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Five of the six incumbents are running for re-election. A lone Democrat filed for each seat while the Republicans have 15 candidates spread among the six races and all six are also contested in the Republican Primary.

All these races will technically be contested in the general election but in reality, that does not matter. Democrats will continue to fare poorly in the general election this cycle and extend their losing streak in statewide judicial races. They last won one of these races in 1992 – almost a quarter of a century ago.

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By Dr. John Coppedge

January 6, 2016      1:38 PM

Kelly: How to really cut down on gun deaths: Address Suicide and Mental Healthcare

“Instead of arguing at the margins, politicians on both sides should be addressing the funding, access, and quality of our mental health system…”

With the Presidential campaigns in full swing, it is little surprise that President Barack Obama’s recent proposals on gun access have been met with political spin instead of objective analysis. Both sides are looking to make overgeneralizations without looking at the practical numbers behind the real issue that should address: our mental health crisis.

Any conversation on gun violence should start with a basic set of facts in order to see the complete picture. Looking at the number of gun deaths, then moving to gun violence and mental health connections, and finally to where real bipartisan progress can be made in expanding access to mental health care can give depth to the otherwise shallow arguments made in today’s debate.

When looking at the actual occurrence of gun deaths in the United States, there is a very prominent role for those experiencing a mental illness, and it is not mass shooting settings. The point about gun access and suicide is clear in these statistics:

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By Bill Kelly

December 11, 2015      2:38 PM

Smith: No-fault Texas Government: Accountability is for Suckers (and Junior Staff)

QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that top state leaders have built a No-fault Government in which they escape blame for corruption and scandal.

There’s a familiar pattern to the contracting scandals that plague Texas government.  Billions of dollars are wasted, projects collapse, citizens suffer, but, miraculously, no one is blamed. No one at the top, that is.

This week, the House Appropriations Committee opened an inquiry into the Attorney General’s child support enforcement contract debacle. “Contract debacle” is a redundant term. In Texas, if government lets a multi-million contract, a debacle is not far behind.

Once again a massive state project is in the ditch.

A plan to upgrade the Attorney General Child Support Division’s data management is $100 million or more over budget and years behind schedule. The main contractor, Accenture, and other contractors are pointing fingers at one another. The current Attorney General, Ken Paxton, is at pains to make it clear it’s not his fault. That would seem to drop the project’s true father, former Attorney General and current Gov. Greg Abbott, in the grease.

At the Appropriations Committee hearing, though, Abbott was a ghost. Better to refer to him as “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Some lawmakers tried mightily to press Paxton’s First Assistant, Chip Roy, to, you know, name names, or at least name a name. Under questioning by Rep. Donna Howard, Roy confessed that federal rules require that regular third-party evaluations of the child support be reported to the top of the agency. Before 2015, that was Abbott. The first blistering evaluation was delivered in 2011. We still don’t know what Abbott did to fix things, or if he even tried.

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By Glenn W. Smith

December 11, 2015      2:35 PM

O’Donnell: Waco biker shoot-out likely to have enormous prosecution, lawsuits price tag

Resident curmudgeon Edd O’Donnell weighs in during the Holiday season to tell us this “tragedy of errors will likely be the biggest, most costly, taxpayer-funded law enforcement and prosecution debacle on record in Texas since the Branch Davidian horror.”

The organized crime indictments of 106 bikers arrested in the May Twin Peaks biker shoot-out in which nine people died starts the serious business of the 2015 – 2020 Central Texas Criminal and Plaintiff Attorneys’ Full Employment Program. This tragedy of errors will likely be the biggest, most costly, taxpayer-funded law enforcement and prosecution debacle on record in Texas since the Branch Davidian horror.

With no murder charges lodged among the indictments, the questions left hanging will fuel courtroom defeats for prosecutors, courtroom victories for plaintiff lawyers and a very likely federal investigation of the entire mess. After extensive off-the-record talks with police, prosecutors, judges and bikers in Central Texas, here are questions and options that need to be considered.

Unquestionably the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle gangs have standing territorial conflicts that only involved beating one another until the Waco incident. If these two gangs attracted so much law enforcement concern to the Twin Peaks restaurant why didn’t someone ask the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to temporarily suspend the restaurant’s liquor license and head off the brawl. No booze. No bikers. No bodies.

Arresting 177 “suspects” on the basis of their riding motorcycles, wearing leather jackets bearing some insignia, and having been present at the incident, was labeled from “ill-advised” to “stupid” by several prosecutors and law enforcement members. At least two former jurists said they were astonished that a Justice of the Peace issued the warrants and doubted that any competent district judge would have agreed to such a mass arrest based on what little evidence was available regarding a conspiracy charge.

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By Edd O'Donnell