Monday, July 27, 2015

When Straus' House killed "Strategic Fiscal Reviews"


"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.
Proverbs 21:20

SB 53, by Jane Nelson, was a bill captioned: "relating to strategic fiscal reviews of state agencies and programs."

The purpose of the bill was to collect more information for legislators about state agencies going through the sunset process; among other things, it would require identifying statutory authority for each activity in which the relevant agency engages.

The bill passed the Texas Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Notably, every Democrat voted for the measure.  Kelly Hancock was the lone dissenting vote.

On May 4th, Joe Straus referred SB 53 to the House Appropriations committee.  Under chairman John Otto, the bill stalled.  Strategic Fiscal Reviews were dead in committee.

No one denies that the 84th #TXLEGE produced a "reasonably not crappy" two year budget, but the fate of SB 53 illustrates (again) how Team Straus went out of their way to kill any sort of structural fiscal reform.

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Read the full bill below:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Meet the AWFUL Higher Ed Bill the 84th #TXLEGE Passed


"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:2

SB 24, aka. the "Brainwash University Regents" bill:



Bottom Line: On a practical level, this law probably won't have much impact, but it's still VERY revealing that they're so afraid of transparency that they're going to force future regents to sit through mandatory brainwashing sessions.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Texas Supreme Court SMACKS Down Annise Parker


"Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly."
Psalm 3:7

Fantastic news, from Texas Values:
Texas Supreme Court Stops Houston LGBT Ordinance, Must be Repealed or Placed on November Ballot

Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Houston City Council must stop enforcement of a controversial anti-religious freedom LGBT ordinance, and the City must either repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot for vote by the people for the November 2015 election. Earlier this year, a state court held a trial on these issues of basic voting rights of one million Houston registered voters, including the 55,000 citizens who signed the No UNequal Rights referendum. The trial court decision resulted in a ruling that only 16,684 signatures were valid, 600 signatures short of the needed 17,269 for the law to be repealed or placed on the ballot. Jared Woodfill is the lead plaintiff, and a board member for Texas Values Action, and he sought to overturn this trial court ruling by filing a request directly with the Texas Supreme Court.

Texas Values Action President Jonathan Saenz released the following statement:

“This is a total victory for the people of Houston, for free speech, and a major loss for Mayor Parker and LGBT advocates who fought so hard to silence the people’s voice. We are thrilled that the rogue and dictator style tactics of lesbian Mayor Annise Parker and her crew have been stopped by the rule of law and the persistence of faith-based leaders in Houston. The Texas Supreme Court got it right on this one."

Last year, Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council passed this radical anti-religious freedom LGBT ordinance, despite overwhelming opposition. The ordinance allows men to go into women’s restrooms, forces business owners to violate their religious convictions, and increases government interference in the private sector. The city secretary reported there were more than enough signatures collected to put the ordinance to a referendum, but Mayor Parker and the City Attorney refused to recognize the signatures. Read more.

CAMPAIGN DONATION DISCLOSURE: $25 to Ted Cruz


"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

Among Republican Presidential candidates, several have respectable records when it comes to taking on Democrats and the radical left; when it comes to taking on legacy Republicans and the crony right, Ted Cruz stands alone.

This morning, United States Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell used a sleazy parliamentary trick to bind the U.S. Senate into supporting renewal of the Export-Import bank.  In so doing, Senator McConnell reneged on an explicit promise he made to the Republican caucus earlier this spring.  Senator Cruz was having none of it:



Highlights:

  • "What we just witnessed this morning is profoundly disappointing."
  • Ex-Im deal way originally cut on trade bill.
  • Cruz asked McConnell at GOP lunch: "What was the deal that was just cut?!?"
    • "The majority leader was visibly angry with me."
    • McConnell: "There is no deal."
  • Staff said McConnell was lying; Cruz gave McConnell the benefit of doubt.
  • "I had no choice but to assume that when the majority leader spoke to 54 Republican Senators, and made an explicit promise, that he wasn't lying to us."
  • "The same procedural abuse that Harry Reid did over an over again...now the Republican leader is behaving like the senior Senator from Nevada."
  • Obamacare amendment cynical: "Of course it is."
    • "Meaningless political theater."
  • Ex-Im: "Classic example of cronyism and corporate welfare."
    • Single largest recipient is Boeing, who admits they'll be fine.
  • "It is wrong and it is corrupt."
  • "This institution should not operate at the beck and call of lobbyists in Washington."
  • "We now know that when the Majority leader looks us in the eyes, and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things he knows are false."
  • "Sadly today, we have a government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists."
On that note, we have made our first political donation of the 2016 cycle.  In the spirit of full disclosure, we are informing readers.  Ted Cruz's Presidential campaign is $25 richer:

I don't know about anyone else, but I just gave Ted Cruz $25 for confirming what we already knew about Mitch McConnell....
Posted by Adam Cahnman on Friday, July 24, 2015


As we said in the comments on the Facebook post, once we realized Cruz's campaign would have more than enough money, we'd held back from donating.  Today was different.  Senator Cruz's revelation this morning marks a level of honesty we've never seen in a quarter-century watching politics.  That type of honesty deserves a reward, regardless of the campaign's financial position.  We hope Senator Cruz raises an eye-popping sum off of this incident.

Cronyism on the right gravely threatens liberty.  You cannot limit government when Republican "leadership" prefers to channel big government towards their donors.  That's just as true in D.C. as it is in Austin.

Corporate welfare produces deadweight loss, which means less consumer choice at higher prices while protected industries reap a windfall.  That Republican "leadership" would go to extreme lengths to preserve corporate welfare speaks volumes.  And, finally, someone called B.S. on it.

And that's why we donated $25 to Ted Cruz's Presidential campaign; make your own donation here.

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Rush Limbaugh has a lot more here.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Venue shopping in evidence suppression case against Williamson County DA


"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
Exodus 20:16

We'd forgotten about this case, but Jana Duty's chutzpah amazes:
Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty wants Judge Rick Kennon off her case — literally.

The state district judge is seeking to hold Duty in contempt of court for what he says was a violation of a gag order, when Duty called reporters in May to defend herself against accusations of unethical behavior in the capital murder trial of Crispin Harmel.

In response to Kennon, Duty is expected to ask an administrative judge on Thursday to remove Kennon from presiding over her upcoming hearing on the matter, arguing that their strained relationship has more to do with their past dueling campaigns than it does with her actions.

....

Kennon has refused to recuse himself voluntarily and has declined comment because of the pending litigation.

Harmel is charged with strangling Jessika Kalaher in 2009 after following her out of a Wal-Mart in Cedar Park. His trial ended in a mistrial last year, and he was set to go before a jury a second time this spring until his counsel accused the district attorney’s office — mainly Duty — of withholding evidence.
The original article contains a timeline of important moments in the case, read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mr. McRaven tells a lie


"He who speaks truth declares righteousness,
But a false witness, deceit."
Proverbs 12:17

If anyone believes this, we have some mineral rights in South Texas we would LOVE to sell you:
Letters of support from influential community leaders do not decide whether a student is admitted into the University of Texas, UT Chancellor William H. McRaven said Tuesday in response to this story.

“It is inaccurate to draw a correlation between a single letter of recommendation and the admission of a student,” McRaven said.

The News story pointed out that former UT President Bill Powers pushed through 73 under-qualified students after high university officials received recommendation letters from big donors, elected officials and former regents.

The 73 students were highlighted in an external study of UT admission policies, called the Kroll report, that looked at the years 2009 through 2014. While not identified, the Kroll report noted that the students had below a C+ high school grade average and 1100 SAT scores and were unlikely candidates for admission based on academics.

....

They were admitted based on a decision of the UT president and not through the regular admissions process. The slots they were given were added to the freshman class and did not displace other candidates, UT said.

Receiving letters of recommendation is a “reasonable and widely accepted practice” nationally and is only one aspect of many taken into consideration, McRaven said in his statement.

“The university makes a determination regarding whether or not a student is qualified based on an extensive review of many factors,” he said.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

John Cornyn creates Wall St. Slush Fund in "Education" Bill


"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

Earlier, we noticed John Cornyn bragging about something on Facebook:


Great to see the Republican Majority working to keep education decisions local.
Posted by John Cornyn on Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Out of curiosity, we checked the link:
As budget-strapped Chicago follows a mass school closure with a new plan to layoff more than 1,400 teachers, one set of transactions sticks out: the city’s moves to refinance $1 billion in debt through complex financial instruments called swaps. The deals were spearheaded over the last few years by financial advisory firms brought in by the city to help find money saving efficiencies. Instead of saving money, though, the Windy City took a big hit: The school system has lost more than $100 million on the transactions and has paid millions in fees to its financial consultants.
Chicago is not alone. School districts across the country have been increasingly relying on high-priced consultants and Wall Street firms for financial and management advice. While proponents say many of the ensuing consultant-driven initiatives have resulted in cost savings, critics note that other initiatives have resulted in investment losses, layoffs and school closures. What is clear is that school districts’ reliance on outside advisers has created business opportunities for the financial industry. And now, thanks to an amendment to federal education legislation moving through Congress, that lucrative market for financial and consulting could become even more flush with cash -- specifically, with federal money meant for impoverished school districts.
The legislation was tucked into the Senate version of a massive K-12 education funding bill currently up for congressional reauthorization. The amendment from Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, would allow local officials to divert money from the federal government’s multibillion-dollar fund for low-income school districts and use the cash to hire financial consulting firms, according to a press release from Cornyn's office. Both lawmakers are among the U.S. Senate’s top 10 recipients of campaign money from the financial industry, and Warner is a former venture capital executive.

....

But opponents of privatizing government services say the legislation raises questions about whether it is more focused on helping financial and consulting firms capture a larger share of the more than $600 billion federal, state and local governments now spend on education.
“There is a multibillion-dollar government consulting industry -- the question is, does this open up an entire new potential market for those very well-positioned consulting firms?” said Donald Cohen, of In the Public Interest, a watchdog group that opposes privatization. “Every industry looks for a way to increase their market share. People look for revenue streams to increase their market share. It’s a pot of gold.”
Under the legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously but still must pass the U.S. House, school districts would have wide latitude in how they could spend the money on consultants. Unlike other sections of federal education law, which have detailed mandates for the types of data that schools must collect about their students and teachers, there is no mandate for any financial reporting by -- or performance evaluation of -- the private firms that will ultimately get the money. The amendment permits schools to take the resources earmarked for low-income school districts and use it to hire “fiscal support teams” to guide districts’ “fiscal, administrative and staffing functions, and any other key operational function.”
In recent years, banks have joined traditional management consulting firms in advising -- and taking fees from -- local school districts. The proposed amendment would not prevent banks from receiving federal education funds to advise a school district on a plan involving complex financial transactions. Warner spokesperson Rachel Cohen told International Business Times: “The amendment doesn’t explicitly exclude any entities from conducting the review.”
But at least they're good financial stewards:
The amounts that consulting firms can earn for work on public school policy can be eye-popping. In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group was reportedly paid $230,000 per week for its work pushing for privatized education services and closures of up to 88 schools in the city. The firm’s work was also kept secret from the public, until a parents group filed a successful lawsuit forcing the school district to release the firm’s final report and recommendations. In that case, the money to pay the Boston Consulting Group came from a private foundation, but the new Senate legislation could open up a federal funding stream for such work. 
But at least they're not working with far-left activists with ties to Common Core:
Among the chief proponents of the congressional bill was the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington, D.C., think tank that is closely associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton.  
Bank of America, which made fees off of school district swap deals made in Chicago and Denver, hasdonated at least $50,000 to the Center for American Progress. Other major donors to the Center for American Progress include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given at least $500,000, and the Walton Family Foundation (of the Walmart fortune), which has also given at least $500,000 to the think tank. Both the Walton and Gates foundations have partnered with the Boston Consulting Group.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: Instead of using their majority in the United States Senate to reduce the Federal role in educations, Republicans led by John Cornyn are creating new carve-outs for Wall St. within that education budget...because, of course, Republicans have to "show they can govern."