By the VERY LOW bar we set at the beginning of the session, it looks like it has been. We will indeed have 5 of the 7 items we listed get through and become law.
- Budget (A) : Getting this one done was made far simpler by very good revenue projections from the Comptroller’s office (estimates that DO face downgrading). They applied more money to the core functions of state government (education and transportation) and- as importantly- returned substantial money to taxpayers through a $10,000 increase to homestead exemptions, a 25% reduction in business franchise taxes, and eliminations of 9 minor taxes (sulfur taxes, state inheritance tax, professional fees, etc.). The homestead exemption increase would have been greater, but they made adjustments due to warnings from the Comptroller office that the initial revenue projections were high. There was elimination and major reductions of some wasteful programs (the Emerging Technology fun, for example). but more could have been done in this regard.
- Prevention of Medicaid expansion (A) : stopped cold again this session. Lots of moderate/liberal angst about this but this is a siren song of ‘free’ money that would long-term cost Texas dearly.
- E-Verify (B-) : Our list included E-Verify for state contractors; what we got was E-Verify for state employees. Not identical, but a necessary first step and equivalent. This is the first time the state has admitted and acted on the need that state taxpaer money needs to go to people who are VERIFIED they can legally work in this country.
- Open Carry for CHL (B) : This one turned into an interesting battle as many liberty-minded folks tried to do ‘Constitutional Carry’ – that NO licensing be required to carry openly. This effort was BADLY damaged by the inappropriate antics of one Kory Watkins from a Tarrant County Open Carry group, who to this day, continues to spout outlandish, over-the-top nonsense that all sensible folks are repudiating. But despite that, we did get through a bill of Open Carry for those with a standard CHL license. There was quite a battle over an amendment to clarify that police cannot stop someone SOLELY for openly carrying a weapon appropriately. This resulted in an unusual coalition of liberty-minded conservatives and liberal minority members who had sadly believable concerns that ethnic minorities could be profiled if they open carry legally. That amendment was struck in the end from heavily lobbying from police associations- and by the opinion of many that current law already assures this. A ruling and guidance from our Attorney General will be sought to assure this. The fight itself over this did give us all to make some of our liberal members realize we ARE indeed concerned with the rights of ALL. And kudos must go out to DEMOCRAT Rep. Harold Dutton, as well as conservative rockstar Rep. Matt Rinaldi for working on this.
- Campus Carry for CHL (C+) : this bill came down to the wire and had enough restrictions added to be a pale imitation of full campus carry. This bill saw an incredible level if ignorance displayed by so-called ‘educated’ people. The biggest part is the utter realization that CHL holder have to be 21 or older. All the discussions of irresponsible 19-year-olds with guns were utterly false- and an insult to a whole bunch of military service personnel, some of which at that age walk amongst danger and incredible stress carrying automatic weapons every day. The restrictions are substantial, with private universities given opt out right and public universities able to set ‘gun-free zones that are ‘reasonable’ (whose definition?). Still, it IS a beginning- and the college campuses will no longer to be guaranteed target-rich zones for lunatics and rapists.
- End of in-state Tuition for illegal immigrants (F) : this one failed to get off the ground. The LEGAL immigrants we know and have in our families who had to pay out-of-state tuition shake their head at this one.
- End of Enterprise Fund (D-) : the amount in the fund was reduced and the sister Emerging Technology Fund was eliminated. But considering a number of scandals and appearances of crony capitalism in this area, one would have hoped to make greater headway.
- Non-listed victories: The ‘principled conservative’ contingent in the House kept the ‘estabished types on their toes and fighting ulcers all sessions long. Big fights on the Local & Consent calendar, where the ‘Powers That Be’ had gotten to used to sliding through all sorts of inappropriate stuff. Jonathan Stickland- the biggest irritant for the Professional Political Class in Austin- took the lead in that, later assisted by Matt Rinaldi, Tony Tinderholt, Molly White and others. A LOT of bad bills got killed and other were force to get FULL consideration.
There was a single primary source that allowed this level of success: elimination of the ‘blocker bill’, where one needed 21 of 31 senators to even hear a bill. The reduction of that to 19 made HUGE differences and the Texas Senate was pushing the House to the right all session long. Mega-kudos to Dan Patrick with assists to our freshman senators Van Taylor, Bob Hall, Konnie Burton, and Don Huffines. Even some Senate democrats, while not liking all the outcomes, did appreciate the chance to at least voice much opposition. And the Open Carry amendment was not the ONLY place where principled conservatives teamed of with liberal Democrats on issues of liberty and rights. There was a lot of respect exchanged between folks of often radically different views this time around. The principled conservatives of the House also did their part, often with significant- and sometimes childish- opposition from the ‘old-guard’. And the grassroots came through like never before, not only with calls & emails, but an unprecedented number of personal visits for advocacy within the Capitol itself. We simply could NOT be ignored this time.
So to some degree, we at the North Texas Tea Party have to eat a little crow; we didn’t believe this much good outcome would be achieved. We were wrong in that assumption and could not be more pleased about being proven wrong. That is NOT to say House leadership is NOT an impediment (to be discussed in the next post), but even they resigned themselves to a more conservative session. And a few of them have even started to LISTEN- if not always agree- with the grassroots; special recognition to Rep. Tan Parker in this regard. And the bar we set was VERY LOW indeed; probably the lowest of all Tea Parties in the state. But we felt we needed to give the legislators space to fight though the Professional Political Class to pass at a Remedial Conservatism level before asking to move up next session. And it is quite arguable they did succeed in that. Not like last session, where they sat down at the conservative test in regular session, and proceeded only to drool on it and chew the erasers off their pencils.
We will STILL try to schedule our ‘trial’ of the session in the next month or so. But rather than the slam-dunk against the leadership, they will defend the uphill slope. The trial will be about what went right and what went wrong, and what it takes to move out of the remedial league.
Don’t get cocky, though, establishment types; now that you are out of rehab now and gotten through remedial Conservatism, the next bar will be much higher. And in our next post, we’ll discuss all the places you went far astray this session. And understand one thing; the 19 courageous reps who stood for change in leadership will ALWAYS get our priority.