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April 20, 2018      1:02 PM

Smith: Can We Be Saved Again by High School Civics?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that if our faith in democracy is shaken, maybe we should return together to the lessons of high school civics

Remember Texas high school civics classes? I do. They weren’t easy, at least mine at Bellaire High School in Houston weren’t easy.

Despite their thoroughness and demands on critical thinking, my civics classes offered welcome, patriotic signs of hope in a troubled time of political division and racist-driven strife, an unpopular war, and, in the very year of my senior class, 1972, troubling portents of a coming constitutional crisis.

I was reminded of those classes not too long ago when I was lucky enough to sit at dinner with former national Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. I’d talked to conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, a critic of President Trump, at the same affair. Anti-Trump Republican Rick Wilson was there, too.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 11, 2018      2:04 PM

Grusendorf: “We need more money,” the dilemma of school finance

Former House Public Ed Chair Grusendorf says there are no easy answers to funding the current school system and that it has “been structured to meet the needs of adults at the expense of students. That is not surprising since adults vote, and students do not.”

Listening to recent testimony before the new Commission on Public School Finance you were assured of hearing one common theme –“ We Need More Money.”  Virtually every education interest group testified to the fact.

However, no one could tell the Commission how much money is enough. 

This is not new. In fact, if you were around in in 1984 when HB 72 (the bill by which Texas moved from the Personnel Unit system to the current weighted-student funding system) was passed into law, you would have heard the same common theme: “We need more money.” 

The truth is, you can go back even further.

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By Kent Grusendorf

April 6, 2018      11:00 AM

Smith: Sis Boom Bah

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has finally earned his Trump Team letter sweater, but wonders what the future holds for moderate Texas Republicans.

A thin, scratchy voice crackles from the little speaker nailed high on the classroom wall and protected against vandalism by a steel (not Chinese steel!) screen. “Children, we are pleased to announce that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has won his cheerleading letter sweater at Donald Trump’s Very Best High School.”

Patrick had longed for the honor since he was an underclassman apparently ineligible for Trump’s varsity squad or cabinet appointment. He cleared the last cheerleading requirement with his response to Trump’s manly man dispatching of 2,000 to 4,000 National Guardsman to the Mexican border.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 3, 2018      5:58 PM

Grusendorf: Don’t Weaken the House?

Former Texas House Public Ed Chairman and New Leadership PAC contributor Kent Grusendorf lays out the shift of power in the House over the decades as he sees it

In the 1st Legislative Session the Texas House had six different speakers. One speaker served only six days.  In the 21st century we seem to be moving towards speakers serving six terms.  Why and how has the house speakership in Texas evolved from primarily a position of honor to a position of concentrated political power? 

Some argue that the shift over the past few decades of power from individual house members to the house speaker was necessary to elevate the power of the house vis-à-vis the Senate.  They argue that returning house rules to their historical norm would weaken the house in negotiations with the senate.

Upon analysis, this appears to be a flawed argument. 

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By Kent Grusendorf

March 28, 2018      11:48 AM

Greenfield: We are halfway through FY18 and who could ask for any more gelt?

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield adds up where we are with state revenue, noting that oil and gas severance taxes are far outpacing what the comptroller had estimated

Before offering my analysis of the state’s revenue situation through the first six months of FY18, I would like to thank a reader for pointing out my lack of attention and misstating the state’s revenue situation through January. 

I originally wrote that the state’s General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenues were almost collected by January which was a little outlandish.  As was pointed out, through January the expected increase ($2.3 billion) in GRR for FY18 had almost been received, not the entire $54.6 billion.

I can now report in Table 1 with certainty that the expected increase for FY18 in both GRR tax collections ($2.50 billion) and GRR total revenue ($2.30 billion) has been exceeded. GRR tax collections have increased by $2.55 billion through February, and GRR total revenue has increased by $2.59 billion.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

March 23, 2018      3:27 PM

Smith: Empty thoughts, empty prayers

On the eve of the international March for Our Lives, QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith turns to Austin songwriter Chip Dolan to ask why politicians offer only empty thoughts and empty prayers to victims of mass gun violence.

Seventeen dead and seventeen wounded in a Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “We offer our thoughts and prayers,” chants a chorus of elected officials who have little intention of doing anything more than that. Their insincerity is enough to give faith and piety bad reputations.

Austin musician and songwriter Chip Dolan, watching the events unfold, had heard enough. He picked up his guitar. The words and the melody came straight from his heart without much conscious shaping. “Thoughts and Prayers,” he called the song:

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 9, 2018      2:13 PM

Smith: Back from the Grave

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the Right’s fear tactics are now more motivating Democrats rather than intimidating them

There’s an old tale about a fellow stumbling toward home from the bar late one night, walking through a graveyard. He doesn’t see an open grave and falls right into it. He tries to claw his way out, screaming for help, but help never comes, so he huddles up in dark corner to stay warm.

Not much later, another fellow from the same bar stumbles through the same graveyard and tumbles into the same open grave. He tries to claw his way out, screaming for help, when the first fellow, unseen there in his dark corner, says in a scratchy voice, “It’s no use. You’ll never get out.” And with that, the second fellow springs right out of the grave like a high jumper.

The story comes to mind while thinking of the Right’s use of fear to intimidate and demoralize its political opponents, tactics at the very top of its path-to-power playbook. “It’s no use, you’ll never get out” is a frequent Republican’s message to Democrats.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 5, 2018      3:05 PM

Pauken: Why Gov. Abbott is intervening in GOP primaries

Former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Pauken says it’s simple: Abbott is trying to make examples of Lyle Larson, Sarah Davis, and Wayne Faircloth for trying to limit his ability to award his big donors

Gov. Greg Abbott has surprised many observers of Texas politics by actively campaigning to defeat three incumbent Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives in their bids for re-election – Lyle Larson from San Antonio, Sarah Davis from Houston, and Wayne Faircloth from Galveston.

All three members are known as Straus Republicans, strong supporters of the outgoing Speaker of the Texas House. But, Joe Straus is retiring and won’t be Speaker next session. There are plenty of other Straus loyalists in the House who the Governor is not campaigning against. In some cases, Abbott is even endorsing legislators who are known to be aligned with Speaker Straus.

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By Tom Pauken

March 2, 2018      10:46 AM

Smith: What are all those other people doing?

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that we know who Trump is, but asks, ‘Who are we?’

We consider ourselves politically engaged. We pay attention, keep up with current events, talk often with friends and colleagues about matters political. Still, how often do we take refuge in the illusion that the troubles we see are all caused by others?

“What could the voters be thinking?” we ask. “What are they doing?” Don’t they see what we see, can’t they hear the emergency political sirens? If only all these other people would get their heads screwed on straight, we say with some exasperation.

Yeah, well, the decisions before us as citizens in a democracy are more about who we are than who Donald Trump is. We know Trump. Trump is the massively insecure sixth grader who failed nearly every column of that “Traits, Attitudes, and Habits” section of our elementary school report cards.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 26, 2018      2:08 PM

Grusendorf: Circle the Wagons – Or Not

From the Right: Former Chairman Kent Grusendorf argues governor Abbott’s involvement in several House primaries is likely a stroke of genius

Although it has been widely reported that the Texas House Republican Caucus has circled the wagons in response to Governor Greg Abbott’s intervention into several legislative races, that is actually not the case.

At first glance it appeared that House Republicans had agreed to stand together in support of their house colleagues whom the governor is campaigning against in the primaries.  Feedback from several members indicates that the house Republican Caucus did not meet, nor was the membership polled to take such a stance.

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By Kent Grusendorf