A wolf wearing another wolf’s clothing

The Dallas Morning News had a really interesting article this morning about the guns on campus bill. Essentially, good ole obstructionism from none other than good ole John Whitmire (the Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee) has made sure this bill is DOA in Whitmire’s committee (still not sure why a Democrat has his own committee, probably has something to do with the fact he’s the dean).

So, since the GOP can’t do this bill, they will do the next best thing, which is still awful. Glenn Hegar wants to allow students with CHLs to be allowed to carry all the firepower and ammunition they want in their cars on campus. Well, at least I know that it is only the students rich enough to have their car on campus who will be the ones killing people after getting drunk/being broken up with.

Whitmire thinks this will be getting out his committee alive, so we may have to deal with the possibility of this being law. Personally, I find this no better than the original bill, because it doesn’t take all that much effort to run to your car into order to fetch a firearm. The idea of guns on a college campus is stupid for the same reason guns in a bar is stupid: otherwise responsible, law-abiding individuals can lose their better judgment, not just because of alcohol and drugs, but because of all of the changes and stress going through a not fully-formed mind during college.

Drain the rainy day fund!

The Trib reports that the Senate has passed a bill, unanimously, which would take roughly $6 Billion, about half, of the rainy day fund out of account and put it to use. Of that, roughly $3 Billion would go to transportation, $2 billion to water infrastructure and a little less than $1 billion for education.

Additionally, the resolution passed by the Senate would advocate further money from unexpected revenue to offsetting Education cuts. All in all, according to the Tribune article, “$3.7B of $5.2B” of education cuts would be offset.

Again, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the Legislature doesn’t think it actually has to be raining in order to use the rainy day fund. Even the budget watchdog Susan Combs supports this plan. I sure hope Perry doesn’t muck it up.

Innocence Commission bill passes House

The Texas House of Representatives voted yesterday to create the “Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission,” according to a recent Tribune article. The bill, HB 166, passed the House 115-28. I’ll let you take a guess as to what party those twenty-eight members belong too. Tom Craddick was the only big name that stood out among them.

According to the Tribune article, the gist of the commission is, “Members, appointed by the governor, would investigate wrongful conviction cases, identify why wrongful convictions occur, and examine appeals filed with the state’s courts for evidence of ethical violations by attorneys and judges.” Key point I saw was appointed by the Governor. So I am not so sure how much good any of this would do, but still.

Opponents in the House were mainly worried about the financial costs of the commission. Ironically, a few extra legal appeals followed by exoneration sometimes costs more than simply keeping an inmate in prison. However, don’t underestimate the power of the law & order types. My state senator, Joan Huffman, after making me happy last week, is back to thoroughly disappointing me after coming out in full force against the legislation.

The Tribune articled quoted her saying “I do not believe this would be anything other than a place for people to rant and rave about what they don’t like about the criminal justice system.” Yuck. I suppose this means the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Expanded Medicaid, Texas style

The Trib has a pretty good article about the recent “Texas Solution” to Medicaid expansion. Essentially, the House Appropriations Committee recently voted 15-9 to expand Medicaid, specifically requesting a block grant to so .

I have no idea what the exact roll call was on the vote. There are 27 members of the Appropriations Committee, of which 18 are Republicans and 9 are Democrats (if I counted right). The Tribune article insinuated that it was just the Tea Party Republicans who opposed the measure.

John Zerwas (R-Fort Bend County) authored the bill to expand Medicaid in clear opposition to both Speaker Straus and Governor Perry. The Tribune article explains what the program would do pretty well. Simply put, it’s would be boon to some private sector parts, and may include a completely separate program. At the end of the day, however, it is going to have a pretty similar effect: reduced healthcare costs up to 133% of the poverty line.

As much as this may not have been my top choice on Medicaid Expansion, I think it will be the best liberals can get.

Lotto dies–whoops–I mean, lives

The Texas Tribune has the best article on this, hands down. Anyways, long story short, the Texas House voted to sunset the lottery, then, after realizing what they had just down, performed an epic about-face with amazing alacrity.

I remember the first time I (legally) purchased a lottery ticket. It was slightly after midnight on my 18th birthday, as I was coming home from dinner with friends. The gas station attendant didn’t even card me, which actually sort of disappointed me. Anyways, shortly thereafter, I started a tradition of buying a scratch-off at my local grocery store every Friday after school. I think the most memorable clerk reaction was “Is this a joke? Like, am I on candid camera?” Ouch.

But essentially, my opinion on the lotto is similar to my opinion on soda taxes or any sort of social issue, which is I have a pretty stubborn libertarian streak. People need to have personal responsibility, if they lose their money gambling, it ain’t the government’s fault, don’t blame the government lottery.

Accordingly, I was shocked and appalled at the House vote this morning to extend the life of the state lottery failing on a vote of 65-81. The Tea Party members came out in full force, and their constituents rallied to their Facebooks, congratulating them on a good “well done,” especially stopping the “evils of gambling.” Remarked one woman on Rep. Steve Toth’s page, “WE DO NOT WANT GAMBLING IN TEXAS [sic] of any kind.” I’ve always found such sentiment to run quite counter to my idea of what these people allegedly stand for, that is, small government and personal responsibility.

There is another element to this drama too, though, and that is that the State Lotto raises over $1B in revenue each year, with most of it going to education.

Then, after a few hours, the House reversed itself and voted 91-53 to save the lottery. The drama calmed down after that, so the program looks as though it will live another day.

TPA Blog Roundup (April 22, 2013)

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by other blogs are not necessarily the opinions and viewpoints of Noah M. Horwitz or Texpatriate.

The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the people of Boston and West as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff explains what electric car makers and microbreweries have in common.

There’s always a price for stupidity and it’s usually steep, especially when it comes to the stupid decision not the regulate key industries. The bill for Rick Perry’s low regulation heaven came due this week in West.

Before all of the other things happened last week, Swift Boat Bob Perry passed on to his greater reward. Which, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs hopes, is a low-paying job in an extremely warm climate.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts about former Williamson County DA being charged with a crime, Ken Anderson will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in Michael Morton case.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw reminds us that there are no signs of Rick Perry become a human being anytime soon. Check out Rick Perry’s Texas: Tax Cuts for Businesses. No Mercy for the Poor.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

TFN Insider reminds us that the creationists are still at work in the Legislature.

The Great God Pan Is Dead joins with the Houston Art Alliance to paint some trees blue.

Concerned Citizens warns about a teabagger group that targets progressive municipal candidates with nuisance ethics complaints.

Jason Stanford doesn’t believe in miracles, at least not as far as test scores are concerned.

Mark Bennett illustrates how spousal privilege may come into play in the Kaufman County murder trials.

Texpatriate finds a reason to be proud of his (Republican) Senator.

Texas Watch offers some tips for dealing with your insurance company after a disaster.

Texas Leftist gives his impressions of the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

And finally, Flavia Isabel has some helpful hints for domestic bliss.

Thou shall not be a Usurer II

The Tribune reported that the Senate has passed a payday lending bill that actually has some teeth in it. Unfortunately, that bill has not what came out of the meat grinder of politics a few days ago. The result was, by Senator Carona and LGov Dewhurst, was a bill that not only eliminated the tough local regulations in cities like Austin & Dallas, while doing nothing to cap annual interest, which sometimes exceeds 1000%.

That is, until Steve Mostyn got a hold of the news. According to a Chron column, after overhearing the lobbyist celebrating how they had pulled one over the public, Mostyn returned to Houston and blew the scandal wide open, and now, I am happy to report a good payday lending bill has been amended and passed in the Senate.

The Trib article indicates that this new bill does not overrule local regulations, and does set a max interest rate (I heard it is 30-something%). The bill passed 24-6 (you can guess opposed), and now heads to the House, where passage will be quite an uphill battle.

Eye on Williamson has more.

School Zone Phone Ban Expanded

Back in 2009, you know, when the Legislature wasn’t passing Jim Crow laws, there was a law passed which banned the use of cell phones (texting or talking; with the exception of hands-free devices) in School Zones. Here’s the main problem with the law: unless a sign is put up at each School Zone posting, the law is not legally enforceable. Further, a municipality can’t just put up one sign at a time, they have to do it all at once. Unless there has been a development in the last few months, Houston still hasn’t put up the signs.

When I was in High School, this really ticked us off, and, if I remember right, we were featured in the news protesting it. I even brought a little posse down to City Hall to speak at public session, but it was to no avail. That was three and a half years ago.

Just a little background, so you know how useless what the Legislature did today will be in reality. The Dallas Morning News reports that the House has passed a bill 130-15 which expands this impotent ban to include “the property of a public elementary or middle school.” The bill originally included all schools, including High Schools and private schools, but the former was axed after being seen as redundant (kids under 18 can’t use a phone in the car anyways) and the latter being seen as an unnecessary intrusion into private property.

I think this bill is a good step, for the record, but it won’t do a thing if the idiocy regarding mandatory signage isn’t addressed first. For the record, I did the research, and this bill (HB 347) does, in fact, just amend the bill from 2009 in the Transportation Code, so I am correct assuming the same rules apply.

Goodbye, Railroads?

The Chronicle (behind that asinine paywall; try The Dallas Morning News) is reporting the legislature discussing something that should have been done a long time ago. The debate thing morning is over whether or not to rename the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Energy Commission. 

A little history: the Railroad Commission was started in 1891 by Governor Hogg, back when railroads were the biggest name in town. Gradually, throughout the 1910s, the regulatory body, one of the first in Texas, was given jurisdiction over all transportation and (for some reason) oil & gas. In the 1930s, the oil boom hit. Ironically, the growth of oil was one of the main reasons for the rise of the automobile and the decline of the train, solidifying the change of what the Railroad Commission was actually doing.

From the 1930s until the formation of OPEC in 1973, the Texas Railroad Commission essentially was the body that set the world price of oil. Arguably, OPEC was inspired by the the Texas Railroad Commission. Since the 1970s, this body has still been a major player in US energy policy. Additionally, since the early 1980s, the commission hasn’t even had jurisdiction over railroads or other transportation.

That brings us to today. The Legislature wants people to be reminded the Railroad Commission isn’t actually about railroads. The Morning News quotes Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), the Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, in support of the law. However, it quotes a lot of powerful people on both sides (Tom Craddick and Gene Wu) who are deeply opposed to it. Their opinion, which I do share, is that anyone who has been in the oil and gas business for more than a week already knows what the Texas Railroad Commission is. It isn’t that complicated.

Keffer and his friends wish to slip an amendment into Railroad Commission reauthorization bill to officially rename the agency. I’m not quite sure why it is getting so much media today.

In re CISPA

This is a few days old–oh well. On Thursday, the US House voted 288-127 to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA. The bill is more or less an even worse version of SOPA/PIPA. Most of my readers are in that small niche demographic who grew up their entire lives surrounded by technology, so, us Millennials by and large opposes any effort to have the government intrude into our personal lives on the internet.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same of the octogenarians who dominate the halls of Congress (ok, they aren’t THAT old, but I couldn’t help to take a cheap shot at LaTourette), specifically from this great State. Of the eight or so Congressmembers who arguably represent part of Houston, Jackson Lee and Stockman were the only Representatives to oppose this Orwellian measure.

I wouldn’t expect any less from Gene Green but to support this crooked legislation, but I was deeply disappointed to see Al Green support the measure. Jackson Lee has always been a good liberal bastion, sometimes being one of the only Texas Democrats to vote against both DOMA and the PATRIOT ACT. It was refreshing, however, to see some of the other TXDEMs who voted nay. First and foremost, Lloyd Doggett, who has a sad history of voting for both DOMA and the PATRIOT ACT, voted against CISPA. Good for him.

Next, I was happy to see the young voting against this bill. Both Joaquin Castro and Beto O’Rourke, youngens with obvious high officer ambitions, voted against the act.

Again, not much of a point to make here, no commentary on the bill itself (you can tell my personal feelings), just wanted to emphasis how few of our Reps are from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.