Big-time Plaintiffs’ attorney and political wannabe Tony Buzbee is running for mayor of Houston and already he is doing what he does best to win – suing people. Buzbee claims that billboards with a public safety announcement for AlertHouston (which issues emergency alerts) featuring a photo of incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner are really an illegal campaign contribution allegedly paid for by Clear Channel in violation of Texas election law. Although Buzbee claims he is not accepting campaign contributions, the lawsuit may be his way of funding the campaign as he is seeking damages of $5 million as well as attorney’s fees and injunctive relief. Buzbee claims the billboards are campaign contributions disguised as “non-reported corporate ‘donations.’” Buzbee’s petition states:
“These billboards are directly meant to influence the outcome of this upcoming mayoral election by means of public advertising. . . . The billboards are obviously aimed at gaining support for current mayor Sylvester Turner regarding the health and safety of the city.”
A very desperate Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (not his real name) threatened to use the so-called “Nuclear Option” to cram through a deeply flawed property tax bill that will shift the tax burden even more on to lower income Texans. Here’s the deal, under long-standing Senate rules to take up debate on legislation, three-fifths of the Senate, or nineteen senators, must vote to move forward. Patrick has warned that he will throw out the three-fifths rule. This is called the “Nuclear Option” because it will destroy decades of tradition in the Senate, a body that has served as bulwark against bad legislation because the three-fifths rule requires consensus-building and reaching across the aisle. Feckless Republican leadership was ready to go along with Patrick.
But on Monday, hold out Sen. Kel Selinger (R-Amarillo) relented and allowed the bill to come to the floor for debate despite his strong opposition to the substance. It seems that Selinger (one of the only Texas Republicans with any backbone) was willing to allow bad legislation to proceed in order to preserve Senate tradition. Selinger likely recognized that Patrick’s petulant behavior was the bigger danger in the long run than debating a very flawed tax bill. Patrick could have won a pyric victory by exploding Senate consensus – a move that would have long term consequences should the Democrats ever regain power.
And the legislation itself? Patrick’s bill would have capped property tax revenue growth for local governments, special taxing districts and school districts at 2.5 percent a year, a threshold that many local government officials have said is way too low and will negatively impact their ability to provide critical government services like police and fire protection. As a compromise to get Selinger on board, the proposed legislation now sports a 3.5% annual cap. In any event, local governments could exceed the cap with voter approval. The real kicker, however, is the likely tie into a yet to be filed bill that will increase the state sales tax by 1%. That is the most regressive form of taxation and will likely pass.
VOTER FRAUD ALERT: The @TXsecofstate discovered approx 95,000 individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in TX, approx 58,000 of whom have voted in TX elections. Any illegal vote deprives Americans of their voice.
All of which is an utter and complete fabrication brought to you by an AG facing criminal prosecution for deceptive activity. Red is still waiting for the retraction.
Last week, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., introduced the Bad Lawmakers Accountability and Key Emends Act (the “BLAKE”) named after former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold who used $160,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit and then resigned from Congress with a pledge to pay the money back. The taxpayers are still waiting on the corpulent congressman to make good on that one.
The BLAKE Act would prevent former members of Congress from federal lobbying if they fail to repay taxpayer money used to settle litigation. While commendable, the BLAKE Act comes a bit late. New legislation has already ended the prior practice of using taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims. Members of Congress must now use their own money (please don’t laugh) and no longer have access to the funds that the free-handed Farenthold used to settle claims against him.
But even the BLAKE Act would not apply to the bawdy Blake because in his current position he is not legally classified as a lobbyist even though it would seem he has no other useful skills. You see, Fats Farenthold was hired by the Calhoun Port Authority as a “legislative liaison” and because he is a Texas state employee he is not required to register as a lobbyist. The loophole would be just big enough for the bulky Blake to slip through.
And just what exactly the frolicking Farenthold was hired to do has become the subject of some interest. The Victoria Advocate is on the story. According to reporting in the VA, it seems BF’s main job may have been to attempt to steer government contracts towards a private company owned by Calhoun Port Authority Chairman Randy Boyd. Good work if you can get it at the rate of $160,000 per year.
Indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (still awaiting trial) is polishing up his conservative bona fides by claiming that local prosecutors are not going after abortion related crimes. Paxton is going to the Legislature seeking funding and authority for his office to prosecute abortion-related crimes – something that is currently left to local prosecutors. Paxton cites an agreement between 5 large county district attorneys in claiming that Texas law is not being enforced by local prosecutors. This appears to be wrong on two fronts. First, the DA’s agreement was made in connection with ongoing litigation over a 2017 state abortion law. Five of the district attorneys in the eight Texas counties that actually have abortion facilities said they would not enforce the challenged portions of the law while the issue of constitutionality was being litigated. There never was a permanent agreement to not enforce the law – it was a “wait and see” while the challenges to the law were working their way through the courts. Second, Paxton produced no actual evidence of any abortion-related crimes. Travis County DA Margaret Moore who has jurisdiction over several abortion facilities has indicated that she is not aware of a single abortion-related complaint that could be investigated or prosecuted.
Greg Abbott’s most recent choice for Texas Secretary of State, David Whitley, put out a list of 95,000 Texas voters which it claimed were not U.S. citizens. Upon even slight investigation, the phony list – obviously intended to pump up Abbott’s Tea Party bona fides – began to quickly fall apart. In announcing the list, Whitley and indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed that the list was put out as part of a fight against fraudulent voting. Individual 1 a/k/a Trumph – the Insult Comic President and other denizens of the far right have insisted that illegal voting and voter fraud are serious problems despite the lack of any real evidence of in-person voter fraud and the Texas GOP is obviously eager to back him up.
It turns out that many names on the list were of people who registered when getting a Texas Driver’s License – a process that requires applicants to establish their citizenship – or registered at a naturalization ceremony – which should need no explanation, that is to anyone other than Our Poor Idiot Governor. When that was revealed, the list quickly started falling apart. In Harris County, almost 60% of the names on a 30,000 voter list were almost immediately removed. Odds are that the vast majority of the remaining names will turn up nothing as well.
To their credit, most of the local county tax-assessor collectors (still in charge of registering voters as a legacy of the Jim Crow era poll taxes) have tread very carefully and seem intent on protecting the rights of Texas voters – unlike OPIG and his flunkies.
So OPIG has spent a lot of taxpayer money and effort in a process which might reveal that a handful of Texas voters were not actually authorized to vote. If the Texas GOP clearly stands for one thing – it stands for voter suppression.
“I have a recommendation for Ms. Sylvester and her lips and my backend.”
State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo).
The relatively moderate Seliger was responding to comments made by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s senior advisor Sherry Sylvester. Seliger, who had been the longtime chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, was upset after Patrick removed him from that committee and the Senate Finance Committee instead installing him as Chair of the Agriculture Committee. Sylvester remarked that if Seliger “believes serving as Chair of the Agriculture Committee . . . is beneath him, he should let us know and the lieutenant governor will appoint someone else.” Seliger’s remarks got him removed from that position and barred from a Republican caucus. Patrick may not be very smart, but he sure plays hardball. This is a warning to all Texas Republicans who are not willing to tow the ultra right-wing Tea Party line of Patrick and his ilk.