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May 29, 2015      2:49 PM

Smith: It is the Democrats Who Are Champions of Economic Freedom

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the 84th legislative session makes it clear that it's the Democrats and not Tea Party Republicans that are the true champions of economic freedom

As the curtain begins its descent on the political burlesque known as the 84th session of the Texas Legislature, some obvious if impertinent questions need asking.

How, for instance, does the Tea Party-dominated Legislature justify turning down billions in federal Medicaid dollars and condemning millions of Texans to unnecessary illness and death because of lack of health care?

About all you ever hear by way of an excuse for this callous and cold-hearted failure is something like, “Medicaid is broken.” Well, not quite as broken as the backs of Texas’ poor and middle class, you know, the people that actually do the work of building Texas’ future.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 26, 2015      4:38 PM

Bearse: Sense and Sincerity

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that conservatives should be careful not to fall for delusional thinking when it comes to making sure foster kids are placed in loving homes

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney has filed an amendment to Senate Bill 206, the Department of Family and Protective Services Sunset bill, that would allow child welfare agencies to refuse to place children in certain homes based on religious beliefs. It is widely understood that the amendment takes aim at gay couples trying to adopt a child or provide a foster home.

I believe legislators should tread carefully when exercising the awesome power of the state to so fundamentally impact or altar families. I have no doubt the amendment is offered based on a sincere belief. I suspect that belief has less to do with the conscientious and religious objections of child welfare workers as it does a widely held belief among some conservatives that children benefit most when raised in a family with a mother and a father. The amendment is tailored to the former, but the beliefs of child welfare workers are secondary to the health and welfare of children and families. It would seem this comes down to an argument about the health and welfare of children raised by gay couples.

I criticize liberals frequently for social engineering, and for policies steeped in idealism that ignore practical reality. A perfect example is the notion that gun laws will keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. It is an idyllic notion, and a false one. Conservatives should be careful not to fall for the same kind of delusional thinking.

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By Eric Bearse

May 22, 2015      4:42 PM

Smith: Medical Marijuana and a Lesson in Political Morality and Courage

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that lawmakers too often treat real people as bureaucratic abstractions and recalls a lesson in political courage from 35 years ago that should give us pause.

The Texas Legislature – yes, that legislature – passed a limited medical marijuana bill that will give epilepsy sufferers access to cannabis oil. It is a small but important progressive step forward.

The passage of this bill reminded me of a 1980 story of judicial compassion and political courage I was lucky enough to break as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

Moved by the suffering of a cancer patient in Trinity, Texas, State District Judge Erwin “Ernie” Ernst ordered the Walker County sheriff to retrieve confiscated marijuana from the sheriff’s vault and give it to the cancer sufferer. Marijuana was known to relieve the extreme nausea of chemotherapy – but it’s use for even that purpose remained outlawed.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 22, 2015      1:54 PM

Hammond: Let’s Get All Drivers Permitted and Insured

The Texas Association of Business would be happy to co-sponsor a debate about the issue between Norman Adams and Michael Quinn Sullivan

State Rep. Byron Cook has shown real leadership this session for pursuing a bill that would provide a conditional driving permit for undocumented workers.  He should be applauded for these efforts, not criticized. This legislation is critical for Texas, but there has been a lot of misinformation thrown around about the idea.  It is time we look at the facts and set the record straight.  

The ability to get a permit to drive legally in Texas is essential to make our roads safer and reduce insurance costs.  The ability to get a permit will not cause more undocumented workers to cross the border.  They come for economic and social reasons, not for the ability to legally drive a car in Texas.

A permit is not a driver’s license, but the requirements to get a permit are very similar.  Applicants must pass a test proving that they know the rules of the road in Texas, and they must show financial responsibility, meaning they must have insurance.  Applicants also would have to show a proficiency in reading and writing English, because the driving and written tests would be in English.

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By Bill Hammond

May 20, 2015      11:23 AM

Bearse: Survivor Austin, Slow-witted, Slow-played

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse wants to know whatever happened to simply defeating your political opponents on the merits of the issues

I don’t know why the American Phoenix Project is spending some rich guy’s money to secretly videotape lawmakers, when there is so much good material on the House Floor each day for all the public to see.

You could film a “Survivor: Austin” episode right here in the Texas Capitol in the final weeks of the session, with the slogan: “Slow-witted, Slow-played…” (dang it, slow-lasted is not a word!)

You can tell the slow-witted ones by a telltale sign: the ones that open their mouths. Not all of them of course. And I am not about to name names. Those who slow-play, that’s easy: check and see if they have a D by their name.

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By Eric Bearse

May 18, 2015      1:54 PM

Greenfield: Tax cuts or state services, that is the question

Quorum Report’s number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says Comptroller Glenn Hegar is wise to emphasize critical infrastructure and services while lawmakers have tax cutting fever

Following the release of revenue and expenditure data for April, sine die is fast approaching and critical decisions concerning both expenditures and taxes need to be decided. A conference committee is now figuring out how the state will spend and what tax reductions should be enacted. 

Comptroller Glenn Hegar sent a letter to the state’s leadership in which he said wanted to “emphasize that in addition to tax cuts, it is also important to consider the long-term challenges affecting the state's balance sheet and credit ratings."

One would expect that underlying Hegar’s concern is the substantial decline in the growth rate in state tax collections. With the most up-to-date information on state revenue, lawmakers can set priorities and allow the rest of us to look over their shoulders.

Information on tax revenue collections through April is important not only for this fiscal year (FY15), but they also influence estimated revenue for the coming biennium. The positive growth (1.2 percent) in sales tax collections continues for the 61st consecutive month.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

May 18, 2015      11:09 AM

Richardson: BP Rider offers $1 billion train wreck for Coastal Texas

In op-ed, Quorum Report founding Editor Tim Richardson argues that Texas could do best if Gov. Abbott is allowed to operate with BP funds

A rider to HB 1 intended to grant allocation authority to the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House over BP’s Deepwater Horizon fines received by Texas misconstrues how 80% of the oil fund funds will awarded.

Rider Sec. 6.24 “Deposit and Approval Requirement for Certain Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Funds” would create a special account in the Texas Treasury overseen by the State Comptroller and used for intended purposes by state agencies after proposed project expenditures are studied by the LBB (no time limit is set on the study) and approved by the chairs of Senate Appropriations, House Appropriations the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor after review for 30 business days (which is 6 weeks if there are no holidays).

The biggest problem with this scenario is that only about 20% of all BP funds will seem like a “grant to Texas” that can be mulled over and allocated. Eighty percent of the funds will be either competitively awarded among the five states (each voting in real time at RESTORE Council meetings) or overseen by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in the case of the criminal settlement funds.

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By Tim Richardson

May 15, 2015      4:54 PM

Allred and Simpson: Myths of revenue caps and appraisal caps

In op-ed, Don Allred of the Texas Association of Counties and Terry Simpson of County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas argue that local officials should make local decisions

Revenue caps and appraisal caps are again being touted by some legislators as a solution to increases in property tax appraisals and revenues.  These misguided restrictions have been tried in California, Florida and Colorado with disastrous results. 

Let’s look at the real driver of property taxes in Texas.

First, Texas is a low-tax state, ranking around 45th among the states in total state and local taxation.  However, Texas is a high property-tax state.  Why?  Because Texas has no state income tax, and the state has mandated that local governments (schools, counties and cities) perform functions and services that are state-funded in other states. 

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By Don R. Allred and Terry Simpson

May 12, 2015      5:28 PM

Bearse: Spygate, Legislative Edition

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues this whole secret surveillance thing is obviously a hit on Speaker Straus. “Those who publicly relish the role of smut-peddler may hind behind the thin veneer of “citizen-journalism”, but only if The Enquirer is journalism.”

Spygate, Legislative Edition became news last week, becoming the talk of the Capitol Community. Like the New England Patriots, the guys with the hidden cameras have been secretly taping the enemy. They just aren’t being upfront about whom they consider to be the enemy. They claim they are looking for hypocrisy across then political spectrum. But we all know this is a far-right hit on Speaker Straus and his lieutenants.  

The absolutists, who misleadingly identify themselves as movement conservatives, deny complicity in this project, but with a little too much glee. The senators who have ties to the candid camera crew are all movement types, and have ties to the same consultant. Said consultant has a history of working against Straus. The dots connect whether you want to see it (and yes, I still do work for Straus, but these are merely my observations.)

The fact that Basel/Beria are being about as forthcoming as Tom Brady about his deflated balls doesn’t mean we don’t know what it is happening. We do. So what are we to make of it?

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By Eric Bearse

May 11, 2015      6:56 PM

Senate Tax Negotiators: In Support of the Senate's Property Tax Relief Package

In this Op-Ed, Senators Jane Nelson, Robert Nichols, Carlos Uresti, Brandon Creighton, and Paul Bettencourt argue the Senate’s plan will offer lasting property tax relief to Texans.

That collective gasp you hear is the sound of sticker shock as homeowners across Texas open up their new property tax bills. Assessments are up at staggering rates, including an average of 15 percent in Houston, 11 percent in Austin, 11 percent in San Antonio and nine percent in Dallas. Homeowners are being gouged for more and more every year, and we believe enough is enough.

The Texas Senate has taken strong action to help property owners, who are shouldering an unfair, disproportionate amount of the overall tax burden. The Senate has approved SJR 1, SB 1 and SB 1760 that together provide $2 billion in immediate, meaningful, and lasting property tax relief.

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By Senator Jane Nelson and others

May 8, 2015      3:52 PM

Smith: Night Crawlers Invade Capitol

From the Left: Quorum Report's liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that surreptitious taping of members and other dirty tricks threaten our civil lives and work against getting anything done.

While some of the top elected officials in the state were worrying about a U.S. military takeover of Texas, we now know it was a few oily night crawlers that invaded Texas. I refer, of course, to the worms at the American Phoenix Foundation, a group that has been secretly taping Texas lawmakers they don’t like.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Joseph Basel founded this particular box of night crawlers. Basel pleaded guilty in 2010 to entering the federal building offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses. He was a colleague of the notorious James O’Keefe.

The headline of a 2014 report from Texans for Public Justice captures the group’s character quite well. “Huffines Top Consultants are a Wire Tapper and a ‘Hooker.’ Basel and his wife, Hannah Basel, worked in state Sen. Don Huffines’ successful effort to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. John Corona. The headline refers to Joseph Basel’s guilty plea. He and three others got caught sneaking into Landrieu’s office hoping to tap her phones. His wife Hannah, then named Hannah Giles, acted the role of hooker to O’Keefe’s pimp in a 2009 stunt aimed at embarrassing the now-defunct ACORN.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 5, 2015      3:52 PM

Bearse: Imposters in the Temple

From the Right: Quorum Report's conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that the term "conservative" has been hijacked by libertarians and it's time for that to be challenged.

It occurred to me, as I was watching the debate about Rep. J.D. Sheffield’s immunization transparency bill, HB 2474, that there is a certain movement within the Republican Party that has redefined conservatism without ever really being challenged on it. Rep. Jonathan Stickland is viewed as the loudest, most brash conservative, Tea Party voice in the Texas House. As Rep. Myra Crowner might say, “I challenge that.” At least the conservative part.

Leading a flanking movement against Sheffield’s immunization bill, alongside Rep. Bill Zedler, Stickland asked Sheffield how much privacy he was willing to sacrifice “in the name of public health.” Perhaps the proper retort would have been, “how many lives, Rep. Stickland, are you willing to sacrifice in the name of privacy?”

Here is a conservative principle for you: your right to privacy ends where my harm begins. Here is a second, more over-arching conservative philosophical principle: government doesn’t exist to protect me from myself, but from you.

Stickland and company would have us believe conservatism means an absolute right to not vaccinate your children, and more importantly, to not allow schools to report to the state the number of children that are not vaccinated. This requirement itself protects confidentiality, and therefore privacy, but that is not good enough for the absolutists.

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By Eric Bearse

May 1, 2015      4:11 PM

Smith: Once More Unto the Breach

From the Left: Quorum Report's liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith suggests that pandering to extremists has gone beyond pandering. Texas is held hostage by the most extreme amongst us

Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to put the Texas Military on alert because federal troops will hold exercises in 17 counties is comical, but it is also sad, troubling evidence that our state is now held hostage by the most extreme, deluded and paranoid among us.

The story has received a good bit of embarrassing national media attention. The U.S. Army this summer will hold training exercises dubbed Operation Jade Helm. Locals in Bastrop and elsewhere – assisted by extremist websites – freaked out. This was clearly a case of black, Kenyan Commie usurper Barack Obama launching the first phase of a military takeover of Texas, they claimed.

Okay, there are always the crazy and the paranoid among us. But why in the world would a governor pander to them? What’s next, I told one national reporter who called about the incident. Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from Big Foot or an invasion of Big Feet?

Well, one reason for Abbott’s pandering is obvious. For years the Republican Party has manipulated these folks, stoking all kinds of fears to win elections. Creating fears that Obama is launching a military takeover of Texas is not that much more ridiculous than alleging a war on Christianity or freedom of religion. More on that in a moment.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 29, 2015      2:29 PM

Straus: The Texas House Puts a New Limit on Budget Growth

In a Quorum Report Op-Ed, Speaker Joe Straus says the House has just passed the best proposal on the table this session to keep state government spending in check.

The Texas House has just approved what I believe is this session’s most meaningful and lasting effort to control government spending.

The House gave unanimous passage on Monday to Representative Drew Darby’s House Joint Resolution 111. This proposal would not only help keep spending in check, but it would bring needed transparency to the budget process.  And it would do so by enshrining a fairly simple concept in our state Constitution: Legislators shouldn’t spend money that they don’t really have.

Our state budget is full of hundreds of special accounts funded by charges that Texans pay throughout the course of their daily lives. There is the fee tacked onto vehicle emissions tests in order to help reduce air pollution. And the extra amount you pay to get a copy of your birth certificate in order to help the state manage such records. And the fee on renewing a motorcycle license, which is supposed to help pay for safety programs.  

But in the early 1990s, legislators decided they could start using that money for something else. Specifically, they found that if they didn’t spend all of those fees on their stated purpose, the money would pile up and they could instead count it to justify spending on other programs. It’s not that the money actually gets spent, but it is counted as General Revenue when the Comptroller certifies the budget. And if the money is counted to, say, justify spending on Medicaid, it can’t actually pay for its original purpose.  

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By Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives

April 28, 2015      4:19 PM

Bearse: Breakfast-gate

From the Right: QR’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse says the Tea Party attacks on Gov. Abbott’s pre-k initiative are “ shortsighted, ignorant, and so poorly written that they actually made the case for more funding for Pre-K – starting with the authors.”

It used to be what was said at breakfast stayed at breakfast. But we are in a new era of mistrust. We literally had a baseball owner leak that one of his star players had a drug relapse, and later express his dismay that Major League Baseball didn’t suspend him for any games. Note to kids: sometimes authorities give you a break when you tell on yourself, which is what Josh Hamilton did. Also, I am told no kids read this column, except for adults that act like kids at leadership breakfasts. And there is absolutely no confirmation that they read this column either, just as there is no explicit evidence Hillary Clinton gave away 20 percent of American uranium just to get her husband out of the country for a Moscow speaking engagement.

But I digress.

Fighting at leadership breakfasts is not new. Talking about it to reporters is new. Now we have Breakfast-gate. It doesn’t bode well for the future of this trio (I guess I should say quartet because the Comptroller gets a free invite too – somebody has to pick up the check) if closed door sniping is finding it’s way onto Burkablog and then to the state’s major newspapers.

But as long as we are discussing confidential breakfast material, I am told one time Dewhurst was reprimanding Strayhorn, who shall now be referenced as One Tough Monogram, concerning spending, or the revenue estimate, or some other fiscal matter and literally broke out the Mansion Equal packets to make his point.

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By Eric Bearse

April 24, 2015      12:56 PM

Smith: Beware the Kindergarten Communists!

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues it is past time to reject what he terms the 'fantasies and fever dreams' of the extreme Right, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Tea Party advisory group's fears that pre-kindergarten is a godless plot to steal our children.

I wish we could dismiss the paranoid fantasies and fever dreams of the extreme Right in Texas. But we can’t because those nightmares, however detached from reality, are driving Texas policy – from education to health care.

This week Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Tea Party advisory group came to us with warnings that an expanded pre-kindergarten proposal – generally backed by everybody but the extremists – is a godless, socialistic plot to steal our children from us. I am not exaggerating. Here is precisely what they said:

“We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young people from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade.”

Removes our young people from homes? Do they really believe expanded pre-kindergarten will empower someone to kidnap children from the homes of God-fearing Texans and lock them up with pagan teachers who have magic soul-capturing boxes designed by the Devil?

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 21, 2015      1:16 PM

Greenfield: Holding take-home pay constant for state government employment

Quorum Report’s resident number Dr. Stuart Greenfield cruncher goes in depth on how to best create a sustainable state government workforce

As we enter the critical stage of the 84thLegislature, the state faces a favorable fiscal situation.  The budget situation this session is excellent with an ending balance of $7.5 billion and a minimum in available total state revenue in excess of $220.9 billion for the FY16-17 biennium.

While additional funding for public education, transportation and Medicaid are required, another issue will be maintaining a well-qualified and professional workforce.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, Texas has witnessed both a substantial growth in population (22.9 percent) and an above average growth in real Gross State Product (GSP) per capita (7.5 percent). The population growth rate was over twice the U.S. rate, while growth in GSP per capita was 30 percent greater than the U.S. growth. State GSP per capita continues to be greater than GSP per capita for the United States.

Growth in population and an increase in real median household income results in an increased demand for public services; citizens require new roads, improved public and higher education, those in need qualify for social services, and protecting both its citizens and environment are critical for a growing state.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

April 21, 2015      12:35 PM

Bearse: Uber Alles

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist argues that too many issues are being couched as “local control” issues; on ridesharing, he says it should be about personal choice and free markets

In America, we believe in free markets – that is, unless you provide an efficient, technologically-savvy alternative to taxi service, and then you have to fight the taxi cab oligarchy to enter the marketplace.

Uber is now in more than 300 cities. Apparently it meets a certain demand. During South by Southwest in Austin, it provided a quarter million rides over ten short days. The local cab oligarchs – three companies operate all the cabs in Austin – have a different business model than Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies.

Those cab companies get paid a few hundred bucks a week by a driver to operate a car. It’s up to the driver to make enough stops to pay that fee and make a living. There’s nothing wrong with this business model per se, but it’s not exactly a supply and demand model. The ability to respond to a surge of consumer demand is limited by the cap on licensed cabs – 755, to be exact, in Austin. For five years Austin has maintained this limit on cabs despite a growing population.

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By Eric Bearse

April 17, 2015      12:38 PM

Smith: What If There Was No Public Integrity Unit?

From the Left: Quorum Report's liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that killing a Public Integrity Unit altogether is far better than creating a special, privileged justice system for state officials."

Legislators are all a-flutter over the possible creation of a special criminal justice system just for them and other state officials. That is, effectively, the goal of Public Integrity Unit bills by Rep. Phil King and Sen. Joan Huffman. Texas law would treat state government officials differently from everyone else. The changes would, not incidentally, make it much harder to prosecute state officials.

Here’s a question: wouldn’t Texas be better off with no state-funded public integrity unit than with a special criminal justice system (if you can use the word justice in this context) just for politicians?

Even the Republicans seem okay with the current Travis County Public Integrity Unit’s responsibility to prosecute insurance fraud and motor vehicle tax fraud, which no other counties want to mess with. So, why don’t we just call the Travis County group the Insurance and Motor Vehicle Tax Fraud Unit and drop the “Public Integrity” part?

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 15, 2015      6:02 PM

Moorehead: The real Biblical meaning of charity

Executive Director of Texas Impact offers an alternative view of how Scripture is used in political discourse

Editor’s note: Last week, Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse made the case that Democrats often, in his opinion, misquote Scripture for their political ends. Bee Moorehead, Executive Director of Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy/Texas Impact, took exception to that and wished to respond. Her argument is offered here for your consideration – SB

The stories of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles are mainstays of our political discourse. They provide a shared language and common frame of reference for folks of widely disparate worldviews, believers and nonbelievers alike.

But Texas is not a theocracy. Happily, we live in a representative democracy where both believers and nonbelievers get to participate in the establishment of policy priorities.

For some of us, faith informs our policy positions.  And since we don’t all believe the same things, we all may not be informed in the same way. Hang around the Capitol long enough, and you’ll hear a lot of different interpretations of Scripture.

On one point, though, you will find broad agreement in the Texas Capitol and other places where the work of politics and policy happen: the Bible does not belong to, apologize for, justify, or in any other way accrue to the benefit of any one political party. As the saying goes, God is not a Republican or a Democrat.

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By Bee Moorehead

April 14, 2015      4:58 PM

Bearse: The House of Pi

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse argues the math just doesn’t add up with the Senate’s tax cut package

This is the one-month anniversary of national p day, and yet I feel like the need for remedial legislative math remains strong.

The first challenge, whether you are for the Senate Tax Cut or the House Tax Cut, is to recognize that while billions of dollars in tax relief sounds really large, when translated to the individual or household level, the numbers are not as great as we wish them to be. We have a lot of people. Depending on the numbers you believe, a household saves somewhere between $14 and $17 a month – or half a bean burrito a day from Taco Bell, or not even a dance a month from one of the strip clubs former Rep. Jim Pitts represents.

None of this is to say it isn’t worth doing, only to emphasize that it must be done right. I am partial to the Bonnen plan – not because I do occasional work for him – but because I have gone down the property tax cut road before. I have watched a one-third cut in the school rate evaporate in a couple years because of local discretion on the part of districts to inch the rate back up, and because of soaring appraisals. The argument becomes – and I once tried this – that your rates went up $200 less than they would have had we not cut your property taxes. Yes, your bills are higher but if it weren’t for us, they would be even higher!

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By Eric Bearse

April 13, 2015      3:51 PM

Grusendorf: School Finance 901

Former House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf argues there are too many questions looming for the House to make a run at fixing school finance at this time

Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock is to be commended for taking on the Herculean challenge of trying to fix the arcane allocation formulas which drive funds to Texas school districts. This formula system is very complex, confusing, outdated, and exceedingly difficult to understand, change, or improve. Transparency is sorely needed. However, as one who has been there before, I urge caution moving forward.

Several questions should be answered before proceeding on HB 1759: Is it wise to allocate another $3 billion without first knowing what the Texas Supreme Court is going to do with the current school finance lawsuit? Could those same funds potentially be used more effectively after a final decision is rendered by the court? How would passage of this bill impact current and potential future litigation?

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By Kent Grusendorf

April 10, 2015      4:26 PM

Smith: My Inner Libertarian

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that different concepts of freedom held by the Right and Left confound easy political solutions and make it easy for one side to accuse the other of tyranny.

It would be hard to blame the average over-worked Texans from getting a bit confused about exactly where the major political parties stand on the subject of individual liberty. Republicans regularly accuse Democrats of limiting personal freedom. Then those same Republicans turn around and work for laws to take away the rights of local voters.  And restrict individual voting rights. And invade our bedrooms and mandate how we have sex and whom we can marry.  

Then there’s the confounding subject of religious freedom, which is being turned into freedom to discriminate by some on the Right. And, I almost forgot. This also touches on the issue of corporate personhood. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of rulings that would stretch credulity even in a dystopian science fiction novel, has extended personhood to abstract corporations. Actually, because corporations can’t be imprisoned, executed, paddled or sent to time out, they are more than persons. They are super persons with more rights than flesh-and-blood U.S. citizens.

But, as Fox News viewers are told, it’s the Democrats that want to take away individual freedoms. Just look at President Obama’s executive orders, bypassing the will of Congress! (Okay. I did. Obama has fewer executive orders than any two-term president since World War II.)

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 7, 2015      3:49 PM

Bearse: Misquoting Scripture for Political Purposes

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse says “There’s a context for every Scripture, and there’s a con man willing to ignore it to advance an agenda. Be skeptical.”

One of the Democrats’ favorite pastimes is to use Scripture to pound Republicans. The rich young ruler in the Book of Matthew was told to sell his possessions to give to the poor, to which Democrats point makes a virtue of giving to the poor. But as usual, they miss the point of what Jesus was saying: the young ruler had just said he had kept all the commandments, and asked, “what am I still lacking?”

To this Jesus responded, “if you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Jesus’ central point was not about giving to the poor, it was about the inward condition of the heart versus the outward appearance of righteousness. He was challenging the young ruler beyond a surface-level commitment, saying give me everything. Material stood in the man’s way. Jesus exposed that. The young ruler walked away downtrodden.

Enough of my sermon, but here is the point: beware of anyone who turns Jesus’ salvation agenda into a social agenda.

I have no doubt as to Scripture’s admonition to help the poor, the downtrodden and the afflicted. But one of the reasons for this is for the internal transformation of the soul that occurs when one gives freely of one’s blessings. I can’t think of a worse way to serve the purpose of charity – the transformation of one’s own heart – than to outsource it to government.

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By Eric Bearse

April 3, 2015      2:50 PM

Greenfield: Spending limit déjà vu

Quorum Report’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield argues that the reductions required under a “tighter spending limit” wouldn’t amount to all that much and there are far better ways to improve the lives of all Texans

Many years ago a professor in a graduate economics class – a class I think I passed – said the students should “analyze, don’t memorize.” Prior to that, renowned American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant William Edwards Deming said “In God we trust, all others bring data.”

The Texas Senate is adhering to neither of these rules. All we hear from the upper chamber is “spending limit, spending limit, we need a more constraining spending limit!” 

SJR 2 and SB 9 are the package of legislation meant to modify the current spending limit. This legislation will allow state expenditures to increase from one biennium to the next based on the growth rate in population and inflation.

The Legislative Budge Board prepared a fiscal note for SB that said its impact “would depend on the composition of state revenue in those biennia and future appropriation decisions by the Legislature.” While the composition of state revenue will change over time, we are able to analyze the way in which state appropriations would have been impacted by looking at how this legislation would have affected past appropriations.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

April 3, 2015      11:36 AM

Smith: "I reserve the right to refuse service"…to Legislators?

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith examines so-called “religious freedom” bills and suggests the proposed laws should allow businesses to refuse to serve Texas Legislators if they really do believe Biblical injunctions to care for the poor.

Question: Say I owned Austin Land and Cattle or the Four Seasons. My sincerely held religious beliefs accord with the Old and New Testament injunctions that we “shall” (notice members, it’s not “may”) take care of the Poor. So, could I refuse to serve Texas legislators if any of the so-called religious liberty bills pass because to do so would be contrary to my beliefs?

I could cite quite a few Biblical justifications for my right to refuse service to some legislators, particularly the cold-hearted extremists who have taken over the Republican Party. But let’s just take two sacred texts. Right there in Deuteronomy 15:11 it says, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Jesus, in Matthew 19:21 said, “…sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

The guiding ethic of the Texas Legislature appears to be the exact opposite of Jesus’ command. It’s more like “Pass Laws to Make It Easier for the Wealthy Few To Acquire All the Possessions They Can By Stiffing the Poor, By Paying Unlivable Wages, By Denying the Poor Health Care and Quality Education. Hallelujah!”

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 2, 2015      4:20 PM

Bearse: Managing our Emotions

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative Republican columnist Eric Bearse says both the left and right often make the mistake of relying too heavily on emotions in their policy prescriptions

Is it the job of a legislator to represent the passions of the mob, or to temper them?

Emotion is a powerful force in the body politic. It was emotion that sent the Patriot Act flying through Congress in the aftermath of 9/11, with few speaking up at the time about expanded surveillance powers. Emotion led to the passage of Dodd-Frank, as outrage at Wall Street propelled members of Congress to pass new regulations – regulations that unfortunately codified advantages for big banks into law while sticking it to Main Street.

I would argue emotion is behind the attempted statewide ban on texting while driving – that some tragic accidents involving distracted drivers have led to cries for new laws beyond distracted driving statutes. I can personally testify to the power of emotion in passing legislation: I worked for then-Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry as he worked to pass a lower blood alcohol limit for drunk drivers on the heels of the tragic death of four teenage girls from the small town of Brock.

Human emotion is a combustible force that has propelled the greatest possible changes in society. It is also responsible for great mischief, leaving behind a trail of unintended consequences due to irrational thought.

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By Eric Bearse