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November 19, 2015      1:26 PM

Smith: Will the Lamp Beside the Golden Door Go Dark?

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that a "pause" in Syrian refugee efforts is really a dangerous, un-Christian and unpatriotic pause in democracy."

The poetic lines point to American’s most fundamental shared value: respect for the life and liberty of all. They are from the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, and they are engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  

In the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, a full-blown xenophobic hysteria has come to America. What is now believed to have been a fake Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the terrorists. Therefore, all Syrians, even women and children fleeing for their lives from the terror and violence of their homeland, are now suspect.

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By Glenn W. Smith

November 13, 2015      3:40 PM

Smith: Trump, Abbott, Patrick and the Tragedies of Mass Deportations

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that mass deportations and local police joining a "Deportation Force" will result in suffering, death and the harassment and possible deportation of American citizens

We don’t need to speculate about the consequences of the mass deportation of millions of people as proposed by Donald Trump and tacitly backed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. We can look to history and see the facts.

Twice, in the 1930s and 1940s, and again in the 1950s with the notorious and deadly “Operation Wetback,” deportees suffered inhuman conditions. Many died. Families were torn apart. American citizens were caught in the deportation net and transported to Mexico. Many never found their way home.

All of us should be alarmed by the prospects of a militarized “Deportation Force.” Hispanics in particular will be subject to racial profiling, harassment, and possible deportation despite their American citizenship. This demonization of a people destroys the collective soul of America. I may not be deported, but the country I love will be tragically diminished. All of us should resist this madness.

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By Glenn W. Smith

November 6, 2015      2:57 PM

Smith: Politics of the Twilight Zone

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith says Gov. Abbott helped beat Houston's civil rights ordinance with cries of 'no men in women's bathrooms.' But while attorney general, his own investigators were caught peeking through a bathroom window at an unclothed black woman.

Houston bigots defeated the city’s civil rights ordinance by spreading fears that it would legalize sexual assault in women’s public bathrooms. Gov. Greg Abbott proudly repeated the bigots’ slogan: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

But back in 2006, when Abbott was attorney general, his male investigators were caught peeking into the bathroom window at an unclothed elderly black woman in an effort to terrorize the voting rights advocate. Here is her sworn statement.

Where was Abbott’s “No men in women’s bathrooms” pledge back then? After all, his investigators appear to be well-known violators of women’s bathroom privacy.

To riff on Thomas Paine, these are surely the times that try our patience if not our souls. Other recent political events:

The Old Testament’s Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. The climate crisis is a hoax. Jade Helm military exercises were a secret federal plot to invade Texas.  

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By Glenn W. Smith

October 29, 2015      4:21 PM

Greenfield: Hark the Herald Legislators Sing, More Roads, Lower Taxes, No Problem

Quorum Report’s resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield takes an in-depth look at the state’s revenue situation and argues we can all expect cuts in state services in 2017

From Texarkana to El Paso, Dalhart to Brownsville, elected officials are heralding their efforts during the 84th Legislative Session to increase funding to the State Highway Fund, reduce property taxes and the franchise tax, and eliminate a number of minor business taxes or fees.

To increase funding to the highway fund and reduce property taxes by increasing the allowable school property value exemption from $15,000 to $25,000 requires voters approving Constitutional amendments on November 3. The mole sauce on these items is that taxes won’t need to be increased to cover the benefits from these actions.

Yes, living in this “Alice in Wonderland” world is where everyone would like to live, but as every economist knows, if you want more X than you’ll need to forego Y. There is always an opportunity cost. So, let’s take a look at the costs of these actions for the state beginning in FY18-19.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

October 29, 2015      4:02 PM

Hall: Is I-635 East going to be tolled just for the Regional Transportation Council to create a slush fund?

In this op-ed, Sen. Bob Hall argues that the Regional Transportation Council and TxDOT are taking a payge from the Saul Alinsky playbook to make the public “capitulate to toll lanes managed by a private corporation”

Un-elected bureaucrats at the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) are attempting to coerce local elected officials into a tolled outcome on parts of Interstate-635 (from at least US-75 to Miller Road, if not all the way to I-30).

The project is referred to as the LBJ East Managed Lane Project, where the term ‘managed lane’ brings with it Texas-sized baggage. Managed lanes are typically toll lanes that feature variable pricing based on the level of congestion in the lanes, also known as ‘congestion tolling.’ Such lanes come with a speed guarantee, like 50 MPH, and if it’s deemed there are too many cars using the lanes and the speed drops below the guaranteed 50 MPH, the toll goes up to deliberately keep cars out of the lanes.

If they don’t, then the toll concession operator has to refund the toll fee. Well, trust me, they’re not going to let that happen. That refund was supposed to go back to the driver but the RTC has a different plan for how they will use that money.

RTC leadership saw this as an opportunity to create their own little slush fund they can later use to manipulate elected officials into accepting tolls in order to get projects done. The higher the demand, the higher the charge so commuters pay a premium to drive during peak hours. No elected officials have any oversight over the toll rates or how high they could potentially go. It’s truly taxation without representation.  

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By Sen. Bob Hall

October 28, 2015      4:05 PM

Dunn: Assertions that charters are a waste of money are without merit

Head of the Charter Schools Association argues that “simply claiming wrongdoing does not prove wrongdoing and the report meant to harm Texas charters is weak, wrong, and not based on fact.”

Editor’s note:  Quorum Report’s Newsclips this morning included this story about charter schools under scrutiny across Texas. What follows is a response from David Dunn, Executive Director of the Texas Charter Schools Association – SB

As more than 1,400 public charter school supporters and advocates gather in San Antonio at our annual statewide conference, an out-of-state group has issued a report attempting to disparage the academic and financial success of charter schools nationally and in Texas.

The criticism flat out ignores the law governing charter schools in our state, and makes assertions that do not square with reality.

Texas public charter schools must comply with the same academic and financial standards as all other public schools. In 2013, the state adopted even stronger requirements. Now, charter schools with three years of continuous academic or financial problems are automatically subject to closure.

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By David Dunn

October 27, 2015      3:56 PM

Woodfill: Why Houston Proposition 1 is "The Bathroom Ordinance"

Former Harris County GOP chairman argues that supporters of HERO object to it being called “the bathroom ordinance” but their objections prove they have a low opinion of voters

Advocates of Houston’s Proposition 1 call it an equal rights measure. However, the proposal will actually reduce the rights of parents, Christians and employers. In the name of tolerance, the ordinance would intolerantly force new societal behavior in our city, denying the rights of anyone to object or even dissent.

Let’s start with the facts: The ordinance’s long list of groups it seeks to protect against discrimination (race, color, sex, disability, pregnancy, military status or religious belief) is a smoke screen. Federal, state and local laws already protect those individuals from discrimination, as it should. The real purpose of the ordinance is to slide two new categories, based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identification,” into the roster of protected classes.

By including gender identity, the proposed ordinance would force businesses to allow men, who identify themselves as women, to enter and use bathrooms reserved exclusively today for women. It would require the same access at government-owned institutions, such as schools, colleges and public parks, including for locker-room and shower facilities.

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By Jared Woodfill

October 23, 2015      4:14 PM

Smith: Paul Ryan's Paid Family Leave

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Republicans oppose paid family leave with the bootstrap theory of individual achievement. Then they use government to take away the bootstraps

It looks like U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand acolyte and failed vice presidential candidate, will become the Speaker of the U.S. House. This is after Republican House members capitulated to a series of Ryan demands, including a demand that he get what amounts to paid family leave on weekends.

Say what?

Traditionally, a political party’s Congressional leadership – especially the speaker, majority and minority leaders – spend weekends and recess time traveling the country raising money for their colleagues. Ryan wants no part of that. He, like millions of Americans, apparently understands the importance of family time. Unlike millions of Americans, Ryan’s in a position to demand it as a condition of his employment.  

There has always been a terrible logic to American conservatives’ positions on work, family and responsibility. Republicans hold to the bootstrap theory, a term once used to ridicule the awkward act of raising oneself by pulling on one’s own bootstraps. It has come to mean something like self-reliance or self-starting. But Republicans make bootstrapping even more ridiculous by using the power of government to take away the bootstraps.

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By Glenn W. Smith

October 20, 2015      4:27 PM

Leeson: A Politics of Place

In this guest column, West Texan Jay Leeson takes an in-depth look at how the far right has come to dominate many rural areas that have benefited from good government investment. He argues that “the more you vote against your place the less you have to come home to.”

A place carries a continuity of knowledge and passes it from generation to generation. How the place works, what makes it turn.   

When there’s disruption in this continuity, learning transpires by costly lessons of what the place will and will not tolerate.

Such learning risks decline. Perhaps demise.

In my late teens and early twenties, I rambled around a region built on agriculture, education and health care with a well-worn copy of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom in my truck console, an authentic 1964 Goldwater-Miller bumper sticker and anti-government talk shows blaring on the AM radio.

That was the late 1990s and early 2000s. A disruptive political period in the region, in which West Texan social conservatism finally divorced the Democratic Party and native fiscal frugality married Republicanism – a party that, outside of Reconstruction and Larry Combest’s coordination with Charlie Stenholm in the 2002 Farm Bill, had made little contribution to the region.

The incongruence of my developing political identity to my surrounding economic realities never even occurred to me.

Then I grew up.

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By Jay Leeson

October 16, 2015      1:52 PM

Smith: Of Bathrooms and Potty Mouths

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Houston's reputation will suffer greatly if the "potty mouths" opposed to its anti-discrimination succeed and the city votes FOR bigotry.

Houstonians, many fear, are about to vote against an ordinance that would prohibit their right to discriminate against “Others” of their choice. Let that sink in. The term “national embarrassment” comes to mind.

Houston’s broad anti-discrimination ordinance is on the Nov. 3 election ballot. Like similar laws in cities across the country, the proposed ordinance would prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender, military status etc.

Angry religious extremists are making some ridiculous claims in their efforts to defeat the ordinance. These are the same kind of folks who think “religious liberty” means they can discriminate against anyone that want to if their religious doctrine tells them they can.

Joined by a couple of odd political bedfellows, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman, these bigots say the ordinance would allow male predators to enter women’s bathrooms to assault women. The implication is the ordinance legalizes sexual assault.

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By Glenn W. Smith

October 12, 2015      10:48 AM

Greenfield: State Expenditures, What Transpired in Fiscal Year 2015

Our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says the next Legislature may be forced to spend as much as half the budget on Health and Human Services – and he argues creative thinking will be required to fund other state services as well.

As Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently announced, "State revenues for fiscal 2015 came in very close to the amounts we projected in January before the legislative session."

In fact, the FY15 projection was within $110.6 million of actual tax collections ($51.7 billion) and $291.9 million for total revenue ($109.4 billion). While the estimates exceeded actual collections, the state’s ending General Revenue balance, $5.6 billion, was a $500 million increase from FY14.  The total General Revenue Consolidated was $11.1 billion, an increase of $100 million from FY14.

While the increase (4.3 percent) in total revenue was less than expected, total expenditures increased by $6.7 billion (6.7 percent) to $106.4 billion. For the FY14-15 biennium, total revenue was $214.4 billion, while total expenditures were $206.0 billion. 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

October 2, 2015      2:51 PM

Smith: Texas Children: Born in Sin And It Doesn't Get Any Easier For Them After That, Either

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith says many conservatives concerned about the innocent unborn when it comes to reproductive health issues feel that innocence is lost once they are born. Consequently, they are underserving of health care, excellent education etc. It's time that changed.

Many religious conservatives dwell endlessly on the innocence of the unborn as they express their opposition to some forms of contraception, abortion, etc. But, once the unborn emerge into the world these innocents become welfare cheats, their innocence apparently lost somewhere along the birth canal like lost luggage at an airport.  

Wondering why so many Texas newborns face such bleak circumstances, I recalled being a panelist a few years back at a George Washington University conference called “A Dialogue for a New Moral Agenda.” Another participant was Wade Horn, George W. Bush’s assistant secretary of children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My jaw dropped when I heard Horn say children were born in sin and had to have that sin disciplined out of them by strict, authoritarian parenting.  

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those holding these beliefs. They flow straight from some faith traditions. For instance, St. Augustine wrote, “Even the infants are, according to the true belief, born in sin.” An author at Christianity Today explained further, “According to Augustine, the ‘carnal excitement’ that accompanies procreation causes the child to be tainted with the sin of its parents, who were tainted by the sin of their parents, and so on back to Adam.”  

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