It is imperative that all Texas House Representatives stand in unison with the Republican Caucus in the creation of a procedure to vote on a Speaker of the House AND the candidate chosen for Speaker.
Has your Representative made this pledge?
It is imperative that all Texas House Representatives stand in unison with the Republican Caucus in the creation of a procedure to vote on a Speaker of the House AND the candidate chosen for Speaker.
Has your Representative made this pledge?
By Steve Toth
“The Houston Chronicle Editorial Board’s latest attack on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reveals a dramatic irony (Paxton’s Tale, October 26). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “tale” as an imaginative narrative of an event or an intentionally untrue report. The ‘tale’ being told is not by Paxton, but by the Houston Chronicle.
The Chronicle got one thing right in their editorial. The Securities and Exchange Commission under President Obama’s Administration did investigate the matter. But what the Chronicle deliberately omits is the key fact that the SEC’s investigation against Paxton fell apart in court and was twice dismissed for lack of merit. In fact, the US District Judge Amos Mazzant, an Obama appointee to the federal bench, dismissed the case “with prejudice” and indicated that the allegations against Paxton, even if true, weren’t a violation of the law.
In addition, the Chronicle failed to mention that the SEC lawyer who brought the charges against Paxton was a democratic primary voter and political donor to President Obama’s campaign. It is no coincidence that the charges against Paxton were brought just days before he appeared at the United States Supreme Court to represent the state of Texas in its challenge to President Obama’s illegal amnesty executive order. Readers should question why the Editorial Board didn’t tell you these clearly relevant facts.
The paper recklessly and maliciously chose to use words like “bribery”, “cheat” and “shady” to inflict guilt by association. But they don’t tell you that state law permits the donation in question. Further, it fails to inform readers the reason the public knows about the donation is because Paxton himself voluntarily disclosed it on his annually required paperwork over 2 years ago … hardly the conduct of a man trying to hide something.
The Editorial Board also recently criticized Paxton and blamed his attorneys for attempting to avoid trial. Court filings conclusively point out that Paxton has sought numerous trial dates to have his day in court. In a remarkable demonstration of the lack of confidence in its own reporting, the Editorial Board overlooked their own recent stories that said “… special prosecutors want criminal case delayed until they are paid” (Houston Chronicle, June 29, 2017) and “… special prosecutors to push for trial delay” (Houston Chronicle, Sept. 29, 2017) and finally, “Judge Robert Johnson granted a motion for continuance in the case at the behest of the special prosecutors” (Houston Chronicle, October 4, 2017).
Shame on the Editorial Board for impugning the intelligence of voters, both in the Republican primary, the Republican primary runoff, and the general election. We cast our educated, informed ballot for a conservative champion of constitutional freedoms and elected Ken Paxton as our choice for Attorney General. Voters were very aware of the baseless allegations during the last election and they rightly dismissed them for what they were, politically motivated and media supported unsubstantiated attacks. Now, the case against Attorney General Paxton is crumbling, much to the chagrin of liberal Democrats, some disgruntled moderate Republicans and the entire Texas press establishment.
When the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board relies on deliberate omissions to make their case and questions the intelligence of its readers, it’s no wonder why the public holds the media in such low regard.
Toth is a resident of The Woodlands and a former member of the Texas Legislature.”
It was heartbreaking to hear. The evening of Monday, July 24, 2017, 17 out of 31 Texas Senators voted on an amendment filed by Senator Charles Perry (Lubbock), which excluded roughly 204 Texas counties from property tax reform, thereby permitting roughly 50 counties out of 254 the right to exercise a four percent (4%) cap on tax increases and an automatic election for funds sought above four percent.
Perry’s Amendment was to Senator Paul Bettencourt’s (Houston) Senate Bill 1 (SB1) – Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017 passed 19-12 in the Senate.
This vote against roughly 204 Texas counties was incorrigible!
I am grateful to Senator Bryan Hughes (Mineola) for voting against this measure.
My Representative is Jay Dean (Longview). Before his freshman term, Jay was the Mayor of the City of Longview. For 10 years, while Mayor, Jay will tell you that he never raised taxes to even three percent. And, on particular projects that he and the City Council sought for Longview, those measures were sent to the taxpayers for a vote. We simply want the same thing!
My husband and I live in Upshur now. Upshur’s property appraisals are rising closer to Gregg County’s every year. Though Upshur is a larger county mass wise, our population is roughly 40,600 compared to 124,000 in Gregg (2015 numbers). Yes, we are rural, however, our County Judge and Sheriff both have someone to answer their phones. Imagine that!
There is no industry in Upshur except a Rob Roy plant that no longer has evening shifts. The largest employers in Upshur are the county and the school districts. Otherwise, many go to surrounding cities or counties for work.
We have a Walmart. The City of Gilmer sought to pull in a Super Walmart. However, after an internal study, the Walmart home office elected to not locate a Super Walmart in Gilmer because our current store is “not making enough money.” So, we have a little Walmart, like they had in Longview in early 2000, that is set up like a Super Walmart. However, as one can imagine there is a very selective choice of items. And you know what? I am ok with that. If the store does not have what I need, my husband, who works in Gregg, can pick it up on his way home. We live in the country. That’s just how it is.
Our County Sheriff, newly elected, is struggling to train his deputies, competitively pay them, outfit them with proper protective gear, and so forth, all on a shoe string budget. In reality, our whole county is doing the same thing. Our county employees, the top “dream job” of most, have not had a raise in a decade. Actually, our Commissioners cut their own pay and benefits by $11,000 each to make payroll to partially cover an $100,000 deficit.
Oh, and East Texas Medical Center moved out of the county about two years ago, thereby, leaving Upshur with no hospital.
As I understand it, the financial shape of Upshur is mainly due to severely poor management by inexperienced county officials over a decade ago. As one can imagine, we are grateful to have the folks currently in office.
Many Upshur residents have recently had to combat the county appraiser on excessively large tax increases. One couple had two acres of their 100 plus acre property raised because they repaired a portion of their barbed wire fence. This couple reports that this particular area is not utilized.
When my husband and I moved to Upshur, there was a water well and an unconnected electrical pole that had been through a fire in 2011, on the other end of our 11 acres. On the opposite end, we added a $5,000 pre-made barn, our paid off RV, a crushed iron ore driveway that cost us $4,500, fenced in a 100 x 100 ft. of cyclone fence for Gus, the bird dog, and our chicken coop, and an unconnected electrical pole and box. That raised our appraisal by $12,000. We purchased our 11 acres at less than $3,000 per acre.
As many on Facebook know, we are building our home ourselves.
When we moved to the area, there were less than a handful of homes. A ministry outfit purchased 13 acres down the road from us for almost $7,000 an acre. For what? There are no improvements, other than cutting down trees to put a used mobile home on each track, running electric to it, and room to park their vehicles.
There are two acres between our property and the 14-acre track next door. Those 2 acres are mostly creek. The owners, according to the appraisal district, live in Cass County. It costs $10,000 for 2 acres of creek!
This area has one school for K through 12 (2 buildings).
In three years, acreage out here has risen to $5,000 an acre – all creek and $7,000 an acre with no creek.
I am told that Straus wants comprehensive property tax reform; but I have a sneaking suspicion that does not include a cap or an automatic election, a right to vote for us pesky peasants.
I gather the other 204 counties, unworthy in the eyes of 17 Texas Senators, only have our Representatives and the Freedom Caucus to protect us now.
UPDATE: The vote on Senator Perry’s Amendment, to exclude roughly 204 Texas counties from property tax reform was as follows:
Ayes: Bettencourt, Birdwell, Buckingham, Garcia, Huffman, Kolkhorst, Lucio, Menendez, Miles, Nelson, Nichols, Perry, Rodriguez, Schwertner, L. Taylor, Uresti, and Zaffirini.
Nays: Burton, Campbell, Creighton, Estes, Hall, Hancock, Hinojosa, Huffines, Hughes, Seliger, V. Taylor, Watson, West, and Whitmire.
I gather I stirred up a hornets’ nest today with my Facebook post about Constables receiving $24k a year in Upshur County.
Granted, I realize some folks view this position as part-time, while others say it’s full-time. I know one Constable that definitely does more than any “part-time” worker I’ve ever seen. Yes, I do understand this particular Constable’s precinct is more heavily populated than others. My point? He sure doesn’t appear to be “part-time” to me.
Yes, I understand with the $24,992 the Constables are paid includes full medical, they pay $168 for their spouse and other family members medical, and full retirement. Personally, we have County, not in Upshur, insurance and we pay closer to $500 a month to cover me alone. From my understanding, all Upshur County employees pay this rate.
Did you know our deputies are being paid $14 an hour? Shocking, huh?
Upshur County has been in the red for over a decade, with only coming into the black the last three years. A few years ago, the Commissioners Court learned the County was $1 million dollars short for the year. The Commissioners lowered their pay by $11,000 each, plus benefits. They also cut retirement from 2% match to a 1% match. That stung a lot of folks, but honestly, where was the money supposed to come from?
With the outlandish costs of Obamacare, the Commissioners and the Judge have diligently sought to find some form of pay raise for all county workers. Guys, I’m not kidding. Just about every time I speak to Commissioner Spencer, Commissioner Berka, Judge Fowler, or Commissioner Gentry, they mention pay increases for county employees. It’s a true concern to them.
I think it’s pretty obvious to see that it will take some time to iron out the issues. Being in the red for over a decade has consequences. Just as in the meeting with Congressman Ratcliffe, earlier this morning, we had the train wreck Obama for 8 years, and it’s going to take us some time, though not popular to hear, to get us straight.
Upshur’s south end does have an influx of folks moving in. However, the County as a whole is not financially well off as say, Gregg. We have no industry out here other than Rob Roy to offset taxes. I understand we have some “powers that be” who do not want industry in Upshur. That’s sad. We have to have some place to work around here available other than just the county and the schools. (No disrespect meant to the other businesses in the County.)
On one side we have many lower income residents with no industry to offset the taxes. Add the out of control appraisals being pushed, and the County newly in the black, what does a County do?
One thing for sure is we DO NOT need an inexperienced individual in our Commissioners Court. We need to stop bashing of our Commissioners regarding roads. There is a Road and Bridge Department. There is only so much money. Go to Commissioners Court, talk to your Commissioners, review the Budget, understand what they have before them — first.
It’s not hard to talk to the Commissioners. They truly are accessible.
From what I’m told, we cannot raise the sales tax. The County can only raise property taxes. Who wants to do that?
I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve heard countless stories from folks, from residential to commercial, who have been in the Appraisal Office combating their property tax raise. Out here, where we are, we have some folks down the road that paid almost $7K an acre. $7k acre. In this area, that’s flat out insane. We live in an area that the school is one building K-12.
The pay for our law enforcement is abominable. Seems to me, we are all in this together. Maybe we should be pushing for more industry to offset the taxes. Get some money in here so we don’t keep losing our men and women in law enforcement to higher paying Counties.
Obviously, this is my opinion. My heartfelt intent was not to upset anyone. I wish to clarify — from ME to YOU — I am not speaking about anyone personally. I am not suggesting our property taxes be raised. I am not slamming law enforcement. I am not slamming our Commissioners or the Judge. I am not slamming Road and Bridge. No one.
Congressman Gohmert does very well at explaining this himself.
In response to the multiple times our office has received chain email making untrue allegations about Congress, Social Security, pensions, pay raises and Obamacare:ALLEGATION & DEMAND IN EMAIL: Salary of House/Senate members . . . . . . . . . . $174,000/year FOR LIFE. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.ACTUAL FACTS: Members of Congress ONLY receive salaries during the terms for which they are elected. Following their service, former Members of Congress may be eligible for retirement benefits, but such retirement is governed by the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) Act of 1986, the same system as all other federal employees across the country. Member pension amounts depend on years of service, but since 1984, no Member of Congress is entitled to the salary received while in office. It is simply the same retirement as all other federal employees.DEMAND IN EMAIL: Congress (past, present, & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.ACTUAL FACTS: Members already participate in Social Security, and have since January 1, 1984. Members of Congress may NOT opt out. They are IN the Social Security program like most Americans, no matter how many email chains say otherwise. Those email chains are wrong.DEMAND IN EMAIL: Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.ACTUAL FACTS: Under Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, Congress is required to determine its own pay. Unless there is a Constitutional amendment passed, there is no alternative. Although (like most other federal employees) Congressional pay is set to increase automatically, Congress has chosen not to increase its own pay for multiple years. In fact, Congress has not received a pay raise since 2009.DEMAND IN EMAIL: Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.ACTUAL FACTS: Before Obamacare, Members of Congress had the exact same insurance choices as the lowest level federal employees had under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Members, and the majority of congressional staffers, are required to purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges in D.C. Obamacare specifically eliminated any federal contribution for Members of Congress, although all other federal employees across the country continued to receive that subsidy. However, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama worked out an agreement to go ahead and let Members of Congress receive the federal subsidy anyway. Congressman Gohmert refused to accept the government subsidy, because the law did not allow it, and he knew how hard hit his own constituents were by the law. Without the subsidy, however, the insurance was too expensive for him, so he and his wife went without any health insurance for a number of years, but he now has it through an additional payment through his wife’s employer.
Last night, after the Georgia race was predicted for Handel, the POTUS and many other Republicans were all a buzz on Twitter congratulating Handel on her big win.
The following, from Chicks on the Right, focuses on the CNN Panel. PRICELESS!
Hannah Bleau (Red Dawn)June 20, 2017 11:15pm
Karen Handel beat out 30-year-old documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff– the dude who 1.) Had millions of dollars tossed his way and 2.) Didn’t even live in the freaking district.
It was supposed to be a nail-biter, but it wasn’t. Handel won. #ShePersisted, if you will. Super inspiring, right? Where are my ladies at? Chelsea? Warren? Anyone? Hello?
Needless to say, Democrats are melting down. I’m sure there will be a bunch of fun tweets to mock tomorrow, but right now, I want to draw attention to this fantastic screengrab floating around Twitter. This was a CNN panel’s reaction to the results:
This is so great. So so so great.
As a member of the #CruzCrew, the pick of John Drogin for the TxGOP’s Senior Political Advisor is an exceptional choice!
See the RPT Chairman James Dickey’s statement on the hiring of John Drogin here.
Wes, the creator of the East Texas Legislative Watch Facebook page, does a great job breaking down how our legislators voted on important issues to East Texans.
Priorities, PrioritiesThe 85th Texas Legislative Session ended on May 30, 2017 with plenty of fanfare and hoopla. During the final week emotions ran high as lawmakers threatened each other, and many important bills died a slow death. Read LONESTAR VOICE recap here. This week, Governor Abbott called for a special session to begin July 18th, resurrecting many of the bills and topics he deems vital for our legislators to take up and pass.
In May of 2016, the Republican Party of Texas, delegates, at their biannual convention passed a platform that included 5 key legislative priorities. The State Republican Executive Committee subsequently added 3 more items and sent the list to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus. These were the items deemed the most important to Republicans for this session. An updated letter from RPT chairman James Dickey and the SREC, calling for a special session can be read here.
As we noted at the beginning of the session, republicans hold the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, so it would be reasonable to expect these priorities to not only have passed but have passed early on and with overwhelming support. Lets take a look at each individually and how each representative within Senate District One did in relationship to the specific priorities.
Priority #1: Pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.
There were no bills filed in the Senate for this measure. The House however had 5 bills related to the priority but only 2 that met the priority language. HB 375 by Jonathan Stickland (92) never made it out of the Homeland Security Committee. Only Representatives Matt Schaefer (6) and Cole Hefner (5) signed on to this bill. HB 1911 was authored by Rep. James White (19) and later substituted by Rep. Schaefer on April 18th. The CSHB was reported to calendars on the 24th where it died. Rep. Jay Dean (7) signed as coauthor on May 2, Rep Hefner, Feb 22, Rep. Chris Paddie (9) on May 8, Rep Schaefer on March 13, and Rep. Gary VanDeaver (1) signed on March 28. Representatives Travis Clardy (11) and Byron Cook (8) did not sign on as coauthors. Rep. Schaefer sat on the Homeland Committee and Rep’s Paddie and Cook were on the Calendars Committee. HB 300 which did nothing for Constitutional Carry but wanted to decrease the fees for licensing was placed on the general calendar, however its companion, SB 16 was passed and signed by the Governor on May 26. All SD 1 representatives signed on to this legislation except for Rep’s Schaefer and VanDeaver.
Priority #2: Abolish Abortion
Only one bill was filed to completely abolish abortion in Texas in its entirety, HB 948 by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (94). It was referred to State Affairs and was never given a public hearing. Only Rep Hefner from SD 1 signed on as coauthor, he did so on Feb 6. Rep. Cook chairs the State Affairs Committee and Rep Paddie is a member. There were plenty of bills that addressed the practice of abortion and those will be addressed in a later issue.
Priority #3: Border Security
Only 6 total bills addressed this issue and none made it out of their respective committees. Rep Schaefer filed HB 2042 which dealt with interstate compact on border security and immigration enforcement. It was never heard in State Affairs committee. The State budget bill SB 1 dealt with funding and will be discussed in a separate article.
Priority #4: Call for a limited Article V convention of states
SJR 2 was passed by both chambers and filed with the Secretary of State’s office on May 11. All SD 1 reps voted for it. All SD 1 reps except Sen. Hughes and Rep Cook signed as cosponsor of the resolution.
Priority #5: Replace the property tax system with an alternative other than the income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden.
Representative Valoree Swanson (150), introduced the only bill, HB 1050, which would abolish the property tax and replace it with a more equitable system of funding State obligations. It never made it out of the Ways and Means Committee. No one from SD 1 signed on to this bill. SB 2 by Senator Paul Bettencourt (7) deals with how property taxes are calculated and applied. House version here. This bill ended the session in Calendars and is one of the items to be discussed in the special session. A write up on SB 2 can be found here on our Facebook page. Senator Hughes signed on as coauthor March 20.
Priority #6: School Choice
SB 3, educational savings accounts by Senator Larry Taylor (11) passed the Senate on March 30 but stalled in the House Public Education Committee where Rep VanDeaver sits. HB 1335 by Rep Ron Simmons (65), established ESA’s for special needs kids. It was left pending in Public Education Committee as well. This bill has also been placed as a special session item. No one from SD 1 has signed on to this bill.
Priority #7: Sanctuary Cities
SB 4 was passed and signed by the Governor on May 7. A more in depth analysis of this bill will come at a later date. All SD 1 representatives voted in favor of final version.
Priority #8: Religious Liberty
Several bills were filed this session regarding this issue, however the more notable ones were SB 6 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (18) and HB 421 by Rep. Matt Rinaldi (115). SB 6 was the so called ‘bathroom bill’ and was passed in the Senate on March 15. The House State Affairs committee never took the bill up, however the Senate through SB 2078 included the measure under school safety concerns. Rep Paddie offered an amendment requiring school districts to have a separate bathroom facility for any child that doesn’t feel comfortable using a common bathroom or locker room. Texas Tribune article here. Many grassroots organizations opposed this amendment. Letter here. This item was also listed a special session item. HB 421 is the ‘church security act’. It made it to Calendars where it also died. Rep’s Dean, Schaefer, Clardy and Hefner all signed on as co-authors. Rep. Cook, Paddie and VanDeaver did not. If I didn’t already say it, Cook and Paddie are on the Calendars Committee.
YOU DID IT!
Yesterday, to the joy of grassroots conservatives and tea party groups across Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced a Special Session.
Governor Greg Abbott’s robust list of nineteen special session items he says should pass in a legislative special session, which will convene on July 18; however, he also stated that the Medical Board Sunset Bill must pass the Senate before he issues the official call on the nineteen priorities.
The Governor’s list of Special Session legislative priorities:
I am looking forward to witnessing our Texas Legislators go on the record on important issues set forth in the Republican Party Platform and in the hearts and minds of Texas voters.
Texas Republican Party Chair James Dickey sent the statement below yesterday after, to the joy of conservative and tea party groups across Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced a Special Session.
My Fellow Texas Republicans,
On behalf of Republicans across Texas, I thank Governor Greg Abbott for calling a special session to provide another opportunity to advance some of the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Platform items left unfinished in the regular session.
Governor Abbott included in his call several items which relate to planks from the 2016 RPT Platform as noted:
Municipal annexation reform– Plank 37: Property Rights
Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud– Plank 59: Fair Election Procedures
Privacy– Plank 87: Gender Identity
Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers– Plank 91: Funding
School choice for special needs students– Plank 147: School Choice
Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders– Plank 100: Patient Protection
Property tax reform– Plank 175: Tax Burden
Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues– Plank 197: Right to Work
School finance reform commission– Plank 120: Funding
Caps on state and local spending– Plank 167: Spending Limitations
To view each platform plank in its entirety, click here.
We need your help to make sure these items are passed into law in a manner consistent with our Platform during this very brief special session. We encourage you to call your representatives right now and engage with them on these issues – find their contact info here. Also, plan to attend hearings and testify on bills during the 30-day session that begins on July 18. Check out the Lege Info section of the RPT website to learn how you can make a difference in the legislative process. Finally, stay tuned for updates, including our next webinar, “A Special Session Primer,” scheduled for June 13 at 7 PM.
I am delivering the message of our Platform to our legislators, and I am committed to working with you so your voice is heard. But I need the resources to ensure our victory, and time is short. Can you show us that you’re “all in” by joining the Grassroots Club today?
I will continue to be a strong voice for our Republican Party of Texas Platform and Priorities throughout the special session and encourage you to stay engaged with us for its duration.
Republican Party of Texas
The following is a message from Heritage Action the Financial CHOICE ACT (HB 10):
“Congressional Republicans consistently campaign on the principles of free markets and limited government, and now they have an opportunity to follow through with meaningful legislation.
Later this week, the House will vote on the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10). This bill, introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling and based on the ideas of The Heritage Foundation, takes major steps toward repealing some of the most harmful parts of the Dodd-Frank financial overall.
President Obama and huge Democrat majorities in Congress forced Dodd-Frank on the American people in response to the housing collapse and financial crisis of 2007-08. This burdensome new regulatory regime imposed 3,500-plus pages of new rules and regulations on the financial industry, codified “too big to fail” policies, and put taxpayers on the hook for failed banks.
Dodd-Frank not only hurts community banks, small business and consumers, it also created one of the most powerful and unaccountable federal agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Passing CHOICE would protect taxpayers, provide regulatory relief, help restore economic growth, rein in the unaccountable CFPB, and push the government out of the business of enacting price controls.