Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dan Patrick, Potentate of Piss, and other 85th Session previews

(Mad props to Cort McMurray, who gets all the credit for most of the following scatologically inspired titles for the right honorable gentleman presiding over the Texas Senate.  I was motivated to add a few.)

The 85th Texas Legislature officially gavels in at noon on Tuesday, kicking off nearly five months of nonstop banter, brawls and bills under the pink dome. When lawmakers gather for the first time since 2015, they'll have a lot on their plate: the state's ongoing foster-care crisis, property tax reform, a "bathroom bill," and public school funding, to name a few.

Our self-appointed Umpire of Urinating, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, has moved forward his bill abolishing the right of transgendered people to pee in the water closet of their choosing as our part-time working,  full time-damaging Texas Lege reconvenes.  The Kaiser of the Crapper has more serious matters of statewide business to deal with, but fear of the 'other' has consumed him, and he intends to make his mark by standing up -- not sitting down -- for the rights of scared old men across the land to avoid having to do their business in public with people they loathe.

They claim -- as they always do -- that it's being done to protect the children.  It's hard to envision how crushing the Texas economy in similar fashion to North Carolina's helps anyone, especially the kids, but logic has never been the GOP's strong suit.  Speaker Joe Straus and even Governor Greg Abbott don't share Patrick's high toilet priorities, and neither do the state's business interests, so perhaps the bill will be allowed to die quietly in the corner of some House committee room.

-- The state's revenue for the next two years is estimated by Comptroller Glenn Hegar to be $104.87 billion.  One hundred nine billion is needed just so state services can be maintained at current levels (adjusting for inflation).  That means massive cuts to critical programs, or 'belt-tightening' in Republican euphemism.  The TexTrib carefully breaks it all down, but it's bad news no matter who's spinning it.  Better Texas Blog is going to be your go-to all session long, and they've already done some heavy lifting.

(I)t’s worth remembering that the Legislature’s short-sighted tax breaks and diversions have done much more to limit future General Revenue collections than the oil/gas downturn did. CPPP will be ready with analysis after the Biennial Revenue Estimate is released to discuss the implications for critical state investments in education, health, highways, and public safety.

Their first post out of the box yesterday afternoon dealt with the ACA's pending repeal in Congress and the harsh effect it will have on mental health funding in Texas.

The just-released Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health report recommends enhancing enforcement of mental health parity protections.

A full repeal of the ACA would move in the opposite direction.  Full repeal would substantially reduce the reach of mental health parity protections, reducing access to mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) care for 2.5 million Texans.[i]  One of the less-publicized benefits of the ACA is that it extended the reach of mental health parity to types of insurance plans that had been previously excluded.  An ACA repeal would mean millions of Texans would lose equal access to mental health benefits in insurance.

-- Dawnna Dukes isn't going to give up her seat after all, despite ongoing ethical investigations and a previously-disclosed inability to serve after suffering injuries in a 2013 auto accident.  While she had indicated she would resign last year, and her stalling through the holidays prompted questions from others (coveting her post, oddly enough) concerned that her waffling would delay a special election, she effectively further handicaps an already-crippled House Democratic caucus in its super-minority status.  Dukes is just one more brick in the wall Texas Democrats continue to build to keep themselves inside a prison of irrelevance.  Dukes was about to be indicted before she said she was quitting, so we'll see what happens with that now.

Update: That didn't take long.

-- As mentioned in yesterday's Wrangle, Grits points out the blinding hypocrisy of SD-17 flack Joan Huffman and her union-busting bill.

SB 13 by state Sen. Joan Huffman -- which is one of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's stated priorities -- would eliminate payment of union dues directly from public employees' paychecks except for police, fire and EMS unions.

Include police unions in the ban and Grits might go for that idea. They're the main source of public-employee-union generated economic headaches at the local level, from excessive salaries bloating the budget in Austin to vitriolic attacks on the city manager in San Antonio to massive unfunded pension liabilities threatening to bankrupt the city of Dallas. They're also the unions most frequently throwing their weight around in local elections, to the detriment of both officer accountability and city budgets.

If the goal is to reduce organized labor's stranglehold on local budgets and politics in Texas, police unions are the place to start.

Nobody -- no legislator, no mayor, no city council -- wants to take on the guardians of the elite keepers of (alleged) law and order in any manner such as this.  They are all much too frightened of the possible repercussions.  In this strict cost-analysis of every line item in the state budget, nobody ought to be getting a free lunch.  Cops included.

-- Governor Abbott, like President-elect Trump, seems capable of exacerbating tensions with China in ways both predictable and accidental.

On Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Houston to discuss energy and trade relations, according to a news release from Abbott's office.

"Thanks to our favorable regulatory and legal climate, Texas remains and will continue to be a premier destination for Taiwanese businesses to expand and thrive," Abbott said in a statement. "I look forward to strengthening Texas' bond with Taiwan and continuing my dialogue with President Tsai to create even more opportunity and a better future for our citizens."

Lots more cheap crap to buy at Walmart.  Yay!

Abbott may have "committed a cultural faux pas" when he gave Tsai a clock as a gift during their meeting, according to Taiwan News. In Chinese, "giving a clock" means "attending a funeral," symbolizing an early death for someone who receives a clock as a gift.

Oops.  Didn't someone say that Abbott was more intelligent than Rick Perry?  In what way?

-- Stand by for more from the scene of the crimes in Austin; follow my Twitter feed as we cover today's Opening Day (traditionally filled with more pomp than circumstance).

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

I vow to call him Danny Goeb on Twitter the entire 140 days.