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May 26, 2017      3:04 PM

Smith: The Road to Barbarism; Fists First Instead of First Amendment

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that democracy and our social fabric are endangered by the willful cruelty of the American Right. And it may be even worse in Texas.

It’s meant as criticism of the Right here in Texas and around the country, but I’m no longer sure the culprits care. Some on the Right have set us on a road to barbarism, and if the forced march is not stopped it will be hell to pay.

What else do we think of a place where victims of sex traffickers are abandoned by a Legislature that cuts funds to help them? Meanwhile, hard-working mothers are forcibly detained while dropping their kids off at school, imprisoned, and then tossed across the border?

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 25, 2017      6:12 PM

Greenfield: Two Thirds Through FY17 and Expenditures Still Declining

Our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says so far this FY, Texas has experienced the “best” of all possible fiscal worlds, tax collections increasing at a rate on estimate, while expenditures are declining

Through May 2017 all funds state expenditures have decreased by 1.9 percent.  As shown in Figure 1, this rate is markedly less than the 7.7 percent increase in FY16.  This rate of decline would be the greatest decrease in state expenditures this century.

Even with the 1.9 percent decrease in all funds expenditures for FY17, total all funds expenditures for FY16-17 should total $227.3 billion, a 10.3 percent increase from FY14-15.  The LBB has projected that House all funds appropriations are $216.3, while Senate appropriations are $213.7 billion for FY18-19.  Assume the conferees split the difference and CSSB 1 appropriates $215.0 billion for FY18-19.  A $215.0 billion appropriations would result in a $12.1 billion (5.3 percent) reduction in expenditures from FY16-17.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 19, 2017      4:19 PM

Smith: There is a Carnival on the Edge of Town

As the 2017 regular legislative session nears its end, QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith ponders the unfortunate consequences of today’s political circus

 As the 2017 regular session of the Texas Legislature wobbles towards its end with the final shudders of a tacky carnival’s Tilt-A-Whirl ride, a few general thoughts on the changing nature of the Texas and American political circuses are in order.

First, a personal observation.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 18, 2017      5:31 PM

Greenfield: Good News and Semi-Good News

Our resident number cruncher notes that tax revenue from oil and gas have increased at a rate substantially greater than in the BRE, but of course 75 percent of that increase will be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund (RDF) and State Highway Fund

With sine die fast approaching and passage by each chamber of their respective appropriations bills (SB 1 and HB 1) the leadership of each chamber appointed five members to the budget conference committee. 

From the Senate members, good news, three of the five appointees were women (Senators Nelson, Huffman, and Kolkhorst). 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 12, 2017      4:32 PM

Smith: Ken Paxton’s Double Standard

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that Ken Paxton wants legal protections for himself that he’d deny everyone else in his argument for the constitutionality of SB4

The contrast is enlightening. Let’s compare the legal avenues open to Attorney General Ken Paxton in his criminal securities fraud cases to the police-state, judicial road-closings he argues for in his SB4, anti-sanctuary city federal petition.

Paxton faces three felony charges of violating Texas’ securities law. His high-paid lawyers (it’s great to be Attorney General!) have filed (and failed with) an unending series of motions to get rid of the judge, block a change of venue, challenge payments to special prosecutors, etc.

Lawyers in a functioning criminal justice system should pull out all the stops for their defendants, especially if their client has all the money he needs to pay them. The fact that most people don’t have Paxton’s resources to fight the good fight is one of those things we’d rather not think about as we pretend equality under the law.

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 6, 2017      4:14 PM

Greenfield: Expenditures Up, Revenue Down

Our resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D., says declining state revenue and increasing state expenditures isn’t exactly a situation any budget conference committee hopes and prays for

As noted in my last column, state General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenue through March declined by 0.2 percent. This decline contrasts with Comptroller’s estimate in the Biennial Revenue Estimate that GRR in FY17 would increase by 1.7 percent.

Total state revenue was estimated to increase by 1.3 percent in FY17 has declined by 0.9 percent through March.

With declining revenue, what has been happening when it comes to expenditures?

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

May 5, 2017      3:03 PM

Smith: A Hateful Spectacle

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith wonders whether hatred and bigotry are both means and ends for many in today’s Republican Party

It was a hateful spectacle unlike anything this writer has ever seen. U.S. House Republicans were partying their butts off, gleefully celebrating their vote to deny health care to millions of their fellow Americans.

People could die because of their vote. Babies. Elderly people. People of all ages with pre-existing conditions who could be denied coverage under the measure’s terms.

The GOP celebrants, cheeks brightened by joy, were so proud of themselves they could almost burst. They were proud that they’d voted for something they knew would cause unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

How does this happen?

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By Glenn W. Smith

May 2, 2017      4:18 PM

Rumenap: Getting out of jail free puts others at risk

In op-ed, the president of Stop Child Predators argues that if conditions are to be imposed in addition to bail, then the conditions must be meaningful

Texas legislators are debating what they call bail reform. Proponents say “risk assessment tools” will allow the substitution of algorithms for judicial judgment in releasing poor people from jail without bond. 

While concern for the poor is admirable, viewing jailed indigents accused of crimes as victims means that lawmakers are mistaken in their priorities.

Who is talking about the impact of these changes on victims of sexual assault?

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By Stacie Rumenap

May 1, 2017      1:11 PM

Wendell: The insurance industry’s blue tarp bills threaten Texas property owners

In op-ed, ED of Texas Watch argues insurers paid 10% fewer hail claims after massive storms and trends will only worsen if insurers face less accountability for cheating their customers

Your property rights are under assault at the Texas Capitol.

Insurance lobbyists and their allies at the self-styled “Texans for Lawsuit Reform” are pushing legislation that will mean insurance companies pay you as little as late as possible. HB 1774 and SB 10, better known as the Blue Tarp Bills, strengthen the hand of insurance companies in property claims disputes.

The end result is homes, businesses, schools, and churches will be blanketed in blue tarps after storms when they’re cheated out of their policy benefits.

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By Ware Wendell of Texas Watch

April 27, 2017      4:00 PM

So Much for GOP’s Sanctimonious ‘Rule of Law’ Chant:

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the So-Called ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Bill Is Clearly Unconstitutional and the GOP Knows It.

While chanting, “Rule of Law, Rule of Law, Rule of Law,” Republicans in the Texas House voted to void U.S. Constitutional guarantees against unlawful imprisonment.

In case these lawmakers haven’t recently read the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, I present it here as a public service:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

Meditate on that, lawmakers.

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By Glenn Smith

April 21, 2017      2:27 PM

Smith: Donner Party or City Upon a Hill?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the vision of America of today’s dominant GOP leadership has more in common with the doomed Donner Party than with a “Shining City Upon a Hill.”

In 1984, then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo gave the keynote address at the Democratic Convention. Cuomo spoke of Americans’ shared vision of the nation as “a shining city upon a hill.” It’s a favorite metaphor of our politicians, from John Winthrop in the 1600s to John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in the 20th Century.

Cuomo, however, used the reference to point out that in America, there is a part of the city that does not shine, places where the elderly huddle in unheated basements, where the young can’t afford college, where people can’t get health care. The New York governor received a lot of attention for his “Tale of Two Cities” talk.

But there’s another part of that speech that’s even more powerful. In it, Cuomo uses the great U.S. Western migration of the 1840s to paint a vivid picture of Democratic moral values and hopes for America:

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 10, 2017      4:38 PM

Greenfield: Legislators, Man Your Abacuses

QR’s Resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D., says cumulative growth in GRR is once again negative, which could be significantly bad legislators trying to finish a state budget as the House and Senate try to hash out their differences

In last month’s analysis of the state’s revenue situation, I was heartened because the rate of change in cumulative General Revenue-Related (GRR) revenue, and the rate of change in the rate of change was positive. 

Who could ask for anything more? Not me.  

However, things have changed quickly, as Figure 1 shows, the cumulative growth in GRR is once again negative. Through March 2017 GRR revenue is 0.2 percent less than the revenue through March 2016.  The Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) estimated that GRR would increase by 1.7 percent in FY17.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

April 7, 2017      6:02 PM

Smith: Good News, Bad News

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith applauds the common sense of House budget writers, but warns that Trumpism remains loose across the land

First, the good news. There was an outbreak of common sense in the Texas House of Representatives this week. Members voted to get us through drizzly economic weather and balance the budget by using $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day Fund. The Texas Senate, an “upper chamber” in name only, had instead employed an unconstitutional accounting trick involving now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t highway funds.

House members tried once again to drive a stake through the heart of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s zombie school voucher plan. It remains to be seen whether the anti-voucher budget language will hold, but it sure signals that an overwhelming coalition of rural and urban House members prefer the word “public” to define the state’s K through 12 schools.

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By Glenn W. Smith

April 4, 2017      4:10 PM

Tassin: Senator Huffman's "Yes" Vote Saves the Voucher Bill

President of the Fort Bend ISD School Board argues against her senator’s acquiescence on SB3: “What is most troubling about this is that Senator Huffman stated she was against SB3 and admitted it is not good for the school districts she represents.”

Normally, we can look at a legislator’s vote on a bill and easily determine if they were for or against it. Simply put, constituents think a “yes” vote means the legislator supported the legislation and a “no” vote means they opposed it. But, at times our complicated political process is not that transparent. That’s what happened on Senate Bill 3 (SB3), the voucher bill.

Three Republicans voted against SB3 on the final vote – Senators Seliger, Nichols, and Huffman.

However, only one of those three Republican Senators, Joan Huffman, voted “yes” on the preceding vote to suspend the regular order of business and allow SB3 to proceed.

This was actually the critical vote that allowed SB3 to survive.

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By Kristin Tassin

April 3, 2017      4:23 PM

Simmons: Just Like the Hole in the Donut, There is no There, There

In this guest column, Rep. Ron Simmons argues “eliminating one punch voting will require all candidates to communicate their philosophies and positions clearly to the voters and not just hang on the coattails of a party brand.”

Editor’s note: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith took aim on Friday at a bill by Rep. Ron Simmons that would eliminate one-punch straight ticket voting. Since we’re happy to foster discussion here in the pages of Quorum Report, here is Rep. Simmons’ rebuttal – SB

I read with amusement (but unfortunately not surprise) liberal columnist, Glenn Smith’s recent prose relating to the elimination of one punch voting.

In case you missed it, here is what Smith said in his article (paraphrased of course) – The elimination of one punch straight ticket voting will hurt Democrats because Democrat voters are either incapable or too lazy to vote down the ballot.

Shame on you Mr. Smith!

The very idea that some voters are less likely to take their voting privilege seriously or with little importance if they can’t vote the entire ballot in with “one punch” is both insulting and degrading to the very people Smith purports to champion.

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By Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton

March 31, 2017      3:35 PM

Smith: The Case of the Stolen Donuts

Do Texas GOP Leaders Really Want to Discriminate Against Minority Voters Right Now? - QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the proposed ban on straight-ticket voting may lead to renewed federal supervision of voting laws

Republicans in the Texas Legislature are seriously considering banning “straight-ticket voting,” the one-click convenience that allows voters to choose all the candidates on the ballot from one party or another.

The bill, HB25 by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, is in the Calendars Committee in the House. With the support of Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, it could be headed for easy approval.

Think of Simmons’ bill as an easy, one-click Republican convenience that further suppresses the votes of Texas minorities, especially those in heavily populated urban areas. It’s the Republican’s own straight-ticket vote to give them a procedural edge at election time.  

Republicans need to think this through.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 30, 2017      12:33 PM

Villalba: Respectfully, Dan Patrick is just wrong on bathrooms

Dallas Republican argues that it is “precisely because of my conservative principles that I will NEVER accept discrimination, hatred, or bigotry”

The clock begins its inexorable tick to closing time and Republican members of the Texas Legislature such as myself are left to contemplate that which will define the session and our political legacies. Most of us will hew to the safety of orthodox convention. Others will wait until they receive the acquiescence of those who brought them to the dance to make their moves.

Me? I came to Austin to move the needle, shape the conversation and to speak the truth.

Senate Bill 6, the so-called "bathroom bill," is the most unserious attempt at galvanizing Republican primary voters in a generation.

It fails to solve a problem that doesn't even exist.

Under current Texas law, it is already illegal to: (1) trespass upon the private space of a citizen; (2) "peep" upon a citizen during a private moment; (3) assault a citizen in a sexual or non-sexual manner; or even (4) engage a person in an unreciprocated manner. The chance that our children – in schools or otherwise – are somehow at risk of nefarious trans-gender Texans assaulting them in showers or restrooms is simply non-existent.

I have tremendous respect for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He is a personal friend, a mentor, and one of the finest public servants that I have ever worked with in the state of Texas.

But I simply cannot support this legislation, which I believe is unnecessary and meant solely to placate LGBT-hating constituencies including Tim Dunn's Empower Texans and Steve Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Texas.

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By Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas

March 27, 2017      12:52 PM

Colbert: Original intent of the Economic Stabilization Fund

Former Rep. Paul Colbert, who authored the House Appropriations committee substitute that created the the Rainy Day Fund, explains it was done to “flatten out the available revenue stream from the up and down swings of the economy so that constant levels of services could be provided.”

With this past week’s hearings in Washington on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, attention has been focused on the concept of “originalism” espoused by Judge Gorsuch and more famously, by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Simply put, originalism is the principle or belief that the interpretation of the Constitution or a statute should follow closely the original intentions of those who drafted it.

In 1987, I authored the committee substitute for HJR 2 – the constitutional amendment that created the “Rainy Day Fund”, as the Economic Stabilization Fund is more commonly known.  I then was the person who laid the joint resolution out to the House on Second Reading and explained it to the members.

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By Former Rep. Paul Colbert