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March 9, 2018      2:13 PM

Smith: Back from the Grave

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the Right’s fear tactics are now more motivating Democrats rather than intimidating them

There’s an old tale about a fellow stumbling toward home from the bar late one night, walking through a graveyard. He doesn’t see an open grave and falls right into it. He tries to claw his way out, screaming for help, but help never comes, so he huddles up in dark corner to stay warm.

Not much later, another fellow from the same bar stumbles through the same graveyard and tumbles into the same open grave. He tries to claw his way out, screaming for help, when the first fellow, unseen there in his dark corner, says in a scratchy voice, “It’s no use. You’ll never get out.” And with that, the second fellow springs right out of the grave like a high jumper.

The story comes to mind while thinking of the Right’s use of fear to intimidate and demoralize its political opponents, tactics at the very top of its path-to-power playbook. “It’s no use, you’ll never get out” is a frequent Republican’s message to Democrats.

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By Glenn W. Smith

March 5, 2018      3:05 PM

Pauken: Why Gov. Abbott is intervening in GOP primaries

Former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Pauken says it’s simple: Abbott is trying to make examples of Lyle Larson, Sarah Davis, and Wayne Faircloth for trying to limit his ability to award his big donors

Gov. Greg Abbott has surprised many observers of Texas politics by actively campaigning to defeat three incumbent Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives in their bids for re-election – Lyle Larson from San Antonio, Sarah Davis from Houston, and Wayne Faircloth from Galveston.

All three members are known as Straus Republicans, strong supporters of the outgoing Speaker of the Texas House. But, Joe Straus is retiring and won’t be Speaker next session. There are plenty of other Straus loyalists in the House who the Governor is not campaigning against. In some cases, Abbott is even endorsing legislators who are known to be aligned with Speaker Straus.

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By Tom Pauken

March 2, 2018      10:46 AM

Smith: What are all those other people doing?

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith writes that we know who Trump is, but asks, ‘Who are we?’

We consider ourselves politically engaged. We pay attention, keep up with current events, talk often with friends and colleagues about matters political. Still, how often do we take refuge in the illusion that the troubles we see are all caused by others?

“What could the voters be thinking?” we ask. “What are they doing?” Don’t they see what we see, can’t they hear the emergency political sirens? If only all these other people would get their heads screwed on straight, we say with some exasperation.

Yeah, well, the decisions before us as citizens in a democracy are more about who we are than who Donald Trump is. We know Trump. Trump is the massively insecure sixth grader who failed nearly every column of that “Traits, Attitudes, and Habits” section of our elementary school report cards.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 26, 2018      2:08 PM

Grusendorf: Circle the Wagons – Or Not

From the Right: Former Chairman Kent Grusendorf argues governor Abbott’s involvement in several House primaries is likely a stroke of genius

Although it has been widely reported that the Texas House Republican Caucus has circled the wagons in response to Governor Greg Abbott’s intervention into several legislative races, that is actually not the case.

At first glance it appeared that House Republicans had agreed to stand together in support of their house colleagues whom the governor is campaigning against in the primaries.  Feedback from several members indicates that the house Republican Caucus did not meet, nor was the membership polled to take such a stance.

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By Kent Grusendorf

February 19, 2018      12:35 PM

Coppedge: Appellate court races 2018, an overview

Part one: Statewide Courts

Another political season is underway and in Texas this cycle there may not be any surprises. It is hard to imagine that the Governor’s race will actually turn into a competitive contest, despite the Democrats biannual "Rite of Optimism" where they conjure up all sorts of things that will make it come up roses for them. (Memo:  Greg Abbott is not Roy Moore).  And the U.S. Senate race will likely be the same. 

There will be some interest in the Appellate Judicial races but this time the focus will not be on the Texas Supreme Court but on some of the Courts of Appeals. It should be remembered that any contests that really matter for the two statewide courts occur in the Republican Primary and there are only two of those in March. 

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By Dr. John Coppedge

February 15, 2018      3:48 PM

Smith: Guns & Politics, The Great American Misfire

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that money has stifled a meaningful conversation on guns in American life, and on other issues as well

Let’s talk about guns, beginning with a couple of stories. When I was a teenager, our home in Houston was burgled one night as we slept. My mother’s purse was taken from the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. All of us slept through the intrusion.

When a policeman came the following morning to take a report, my father decided to sell the officer his .357 pistol. I’ll never forget Dad’s words. “It was probably some neighborhood kid we know, and I might have shot him over a purse,” he said.

Second story. Some years ago, I was managing a statewide political campaign when a reporter called about a rule allowing handguns in the state Senate gallery. I made a joke, wondering why Senate officials had banned use of cell phones in the gallery while permitting guns. “They’re more scared of phones than guns?” I asked with some sarcasm.

My mistake. The state and national rifle associations were after me in moments, complaining to the press that I clearly wanted to take all the guns away from law-abiding Texans. Oh yeah? Well, the humorless gun lobby will have to wait and pry the jokes out of my cold, dead fingers. Or something like that.

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By Glenn W. Smith

February 14, 2018      4:13 PM

Coppedge: Be careful what you wish for

Longtime observer of judicial races in Texas, Dr. John Coppedge, says unintended consequences may come out of a federal lawsuit to change the way judges are elected statewide

There is a lawsuit in Federal Court in Corpus Christi challenging the way Texans elect judges for statewide judicial office.

The suit, filed under the Federal Voting Rights Act, seeks to mandate the nine Justices elected to the Texas Supreme Court and nine Judges elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals be elected from nine separate districts, rather than statewide, and that two Hispanic majority districts be created in the Southern and Western parts of the State.

This suit is based on flawed reasoning and is quite myopic. Taking a close look, numerous problems are apparent if one examines the issues and facts and looks ahead at what would occur should the plaintiffs prevail.

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By Dr. John Coppedge

February 13, 2018      5:22 PM

Greenfield: Super Revenue Growth Continues

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield argues that state revenue growth is so good that lawmakers could consider (gasp) increasing spending in certain areas like pay for corrections officers

After listening to the recent Senate Finance hearing on the state of the economy and impact of Hurricane Harvey, I thought it might be helpful to provide some additional background on how well fiscally the state continues doing. 

At the January 30 hearing, Comptroller Glenn Hegar mentioned that state revenue is increasing at a rate above the Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE), but we are only five months into the current fiscal year.  The Comptroller also mentioned that budget deferrals were needed to balance the FY18-19 budget, there is an estimated billion-dollar shortfall for Medicaid, and with anticipated funds needed to address Hurricane Harvey, it was too soon to revise the estimate. 

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

February 12, 2018      4:51 PM

Grusendorf: Winning

From the Right: Former Chairman Kent Grusendorf argues the upcoming speaker’s race may give Republicans an opportunity to stop trying to find ways to surrender at the Texas Capitol

Dan Patrick and Donald Trump have something in common.  They both play to win.

A friend recently told a story of two lobbyists working together in Austin.  One had previously served in the legislature as a Democrat; a recently retired Republican legislator joined him to lobby on an issue.  After working the session, the former Democrat was astonished and said of his new Republican lobby colleague –“He was constantly looking for a way to surrender.”

Although today Republicans have majorities in both Austin and Washington, they were in the political outhouse for so many decades, it is clear that they are unaccustomed to winning, nor have they learned how to win.  For decades, Republicans’ only chance for winning was to cut a deal in return for not getting run over.  A token victory was superior to nothing. Republican leaders learned over the decades that surrender was the closest they could come to victory on many fronts.

Times have changed. 

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By Kent Grusendorf

February 6, 2018      12:19 PM

Grusendorf: Supermajority Senate Rules Undermine Democracy

From the Right: With another potential government shutdown looming, former GOP Rep. Kent Grusendorf argues that supermajority rules “allow politicians to hide from voters and act in their own interests instead of dealing with the critical business of government.”

Do senate rules that require a supermajority vote really promote bipartisanship? Are they really traditional? It is often said that senate supermajorities are critical because of tradition and because they help guarantee bipartisan compromise – both arguments wilt upon analysis. In reality, the primary result of supermajority senate rules is the protection of incumbent senators.

In DC, the supermajority rule has not resulted in bipartisanship. Instead, it has resulted in total gridlock.

Gridlock is the opposite of bipartisan compromise.

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By Kent Grusendorf

February 2, 2018      1:10 PM

Smith: I am America, and I Have a Secret Memo Right Here in My Coat Pocket

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith on President Trump’s attack on Law Enforcement.

Pool transcript of President Donald Trump’s monologue:

I have a secret memo in my pocket that details all the disgraceful things my opponents and detractors are engaged in. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Maybe this memo will be declassified soon. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. A lot of people – a lot of people – are saying it should be released to the public. It’s just oversight.

I mean, people should be ashamed. We’ll see what happens. A lot of people are outraged, and they should be outraged.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 26, 2018      4:18 PM

Smith: Why?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith asks a question of “all the good folks of Texas who hold some political opinions on the right side of the middle but on the tolerant and loving side of life”

During my years in and around the Texas Capitol – as a journalist, a staffer, a public affairs guy – I watched the tolerance grow among members of both political parties as the state adjusted to its growing diversity.

Oh, intolerance and bigotry certainly didn’t disappear, as subsequent years of injury caused by racist attitudes and policies have sadly shown. After all, the 1980s were the years of the great “welfare Cadillac” lie.

Yes, as “white flight” emptied large urban school districts of affluent white families, many on the right fought all the harder against state funding of public schools. I’m not looking back on some paradise, that’s for sure.

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By Glenn W. Smith

January 24, 2018      1:43 PM

Greenfield: Governor Abbott, Where Can I Send the Calculators?

Beyond failing to cut anyone's taxes, Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield argues Abbott’s campaign proposal to restrict revenue growth to 2.5 percent annually would result in a decline of real local property tax revenue per student

Governor Greg Abbott recently “unveiled a plan to limit annual local governments' property tax revenue growth to 2.5 percent.” As Scott Braddock reported, “Not to be outdone by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday proposed severely restricting how much cities, counties, and school districts are allowed to raise property taxes annually.” 

Like the occupant of the country’s White House, the occupant of the Texas White House appears not to have looked at the data before making a pronouncement that will affect each and every Texan. It is quite obvious that the Governor and his staff did not look at the underlying factors that drive property tax increases.

There are three main factors, population growth, price increases, and resident demand for additional government services, which influence a local government’s need to raise tax revenues. 

Did the Governor or his staff look at the growth in any of these factors before proposing to restrict tax revenue growth to 2.5 percent per year?  According to the data I was easily able to assemble, the answer appears to be no.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

January 22, 2018      2:37 PM

Grusendorf: School finance, the next chapter

After the Texas Supreme Court said the state’s funding of schools is legal but lousy, former Public Ed Chair Grusendorf policymakers should provide a 21st century education finance system

Tomorrow the new Texas Commission on Public School Finance will meet for the first time. To paraphrase Mark Udof when he served on one of the many prior select committees appointed to deal with this thorny issue:  School Finance is like a Russian novel, it’s long, it’s boring, it’s complex, and in the end, everyone dies.

If this newest group of policy makers hopes to have greater success than their many predecessors, they might want to consider the following:

-       First, there is a subtle yet distinct difference between what might be best for institutions and what is best for student success.  New formulas should be designed accordingly.

-       Second, there is an inverse relationship between regulation and innovation.  Therefore, public schools should be allowed greater latitude over operations and delivery of services.  Public schools should be allowed to customize, specialize, and innovate.

-       Third, teachers are the backbone of the system.  Therefore, policy makers must give more than lip service in allowing educators to function as professionals.

Over the past four decades Governors Mark White, Bill Clements, Ann Richards, George Bush, and Rick Perry have all attempted to solve the school finance quandary.  Most had input from select committees, each implemented thoughtful reforms, and through a large portion of their combined tenures, the state was under judicial review regarding systemic faults.

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By Kent Grusendorf