84th Legislature Scorecards

June 18, 2015

Scorecard season is here! Here is our writeup of the session..  Time to see how our Texas State Senators and representatives actually VOTED in Austin against various standards.  We will list the good and the bad ones here as they become available:


The Rice University study is the most complete, ranking nearly EVERY significant vote (Here is the State Senate version).  More data points, more accuracy. Here is a copy of their House graphic. And their Senate one.

The EmpowerTexans scorecard is absolutely the BEST on fiscal conservatism and government overreach. Over 90 votes involved in the decision. Go by this one over all others!

The Texas Eagle Forum Scorecard, a good source for a more socially conservative ranking can be found here (in good downloadable formats).


Here is an INCREDIBLY BAD scorecard from the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce. Pro-business’??  Closer to pro-crony capitalism.  Those bills that they list as their priorities that have no checkmarks?  Include things like Medicaid expansion for Obamacare that was so toxic, they never got brought up.  They considered only 10 items out of thousands: 2 got NO votes, 3 only got them in one of two houses.  And on the rest, the Democrats did as well as the GOP members, often better.  This is ‘pro-business’???

Conservative Success in the Texas Legislature? Yes

May 31, 2015

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.

UPDATE: Bad Bills CAN negate Good Ones

May 4, 2015

In our ‘trial’ of the session after the legislature is done, an unstated given is that the passage of uniquely BAD bills can be so offensive to the 5 Tea Party principles that the can NEGATE a ‘good’ vote.
One such bill has appeared: Byron Cook’s HB4603If gives driver ‘permits’ to illegal aliens; it even prevents disclosure of criminal background of the holders EVEN DURING an investigation.  A right CITIZENS  do NOT have!

If this bill passes, this is serious enough, it will NEGATE a good bill passing in our trial of the session.

Straus Goes Dictatorial

May 2, 2015

Joe Straus has taken to stopping amendments from even being presented on the floor of the House when they are inconvenient. While Jonathan Stickland’s Constitutional Carry amendment to Open Carry for CHL COULD have been properly argued to be ‘not germane’, it should have been done so by House rules AFTER it was presented. However, the two amendments to the transportation funding bill that would have prevented the related money’s usage on specific tolling projects were PERFECTLY germane, just not what the leadership wanted.

This was ALSO clear on a number of items that leadership wants that were improperly placed on the Local & Consent calendar (where things are not SUPPOSED to be significant or controversial) including banning powdered alcohol and  an attempt to slip through giving arrest powers to Federal Reserve security guards.  Rent-a-cop types being given arrest authority is NOT something that needs talking about in committee?? Kudos to Jonathan Stickland, who has been fearless in holding leadership accountable. While Jonathan can sometimes be OVERLY irritating, he has also exposed the complete classlessness that House leadership can sink to, including the stick-figure snark of Pickett on the Federal Reserve bill and an infamous cookie-dragging incident associated with Chalie Geren.

Bottom line is that leadership has gotten especially blatant with their dictatorial tendencies this session; rules are apparently for little people.  And those that supported this leadership style have some explaining to do.

84th TX Legislature: Where are We?

April 18, 2015

The legislative session is more than half through and things are actually looking pretty darn good- TO THIS POINT.
Remember our declaration in terms of the ‘trial’ of this session:

Our definition of a conservative outcome is that at least five of the following seven items BECOME LAW, with the first one an absolute requirement (none of the games of passing the house, but running out the clock on synchronizing with the Senate will count):

  1.  The budget does NOT get busted- by HONEST math, not by DC-style calculation.
  2. Open carry (for at least CHL holders):
  3. Campus carry- the same way
  4. Medicaid expansion blocked again
  5. The Enterprise Fund gets stripped to a small fraction of what it is or dissolved outright.
  6. E-Verify for State Contracts
  7. Ending in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

So where are we?  Well, Item #1 looks pretty good, based on a surge in revenue for Texas.  In fact, there is a glorious fight going on between the House and Senate on HOW to cut our taxes $4.5 to $5 BILLION

Senate: Personal- property tax homestead exemption increase; business- raising the exempted amount to eliminate half the businesses entirely from the franchise tax, decreasing the rest 15%

House: Personal- Sales tax reduction; Business- a 25% decrease of franchise tax across the board

Open Carry and Campus Carry passed out of the House yesterday.  The Senate also has versions. any discrepancies must be worked out in joint committee.
Medicaid Expansion does not seem to be on track to be considered.

The Enterprise Fund is intact and E-Verify for state contracts is not likely to ever get out of a committee (they say it’s not necessary , since Perry issued an executive order, which can easily be reversed.)

Ending in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is progressing but is iffy to get through.

More progress has been made than frankly was expected, especially on budget (due to available revenue), but it is FAR from over. And NOTHING of substance has passed BOTH houses. Conference committees can quickly turn into the Devil’s playground,  so we will see.  And there HAVE been losses: the extension of Pre-K passed without it being specifically capped in cost, for example (the vote to remove the budgeting cap amendment, where 27 GOP members joined the Democrats, REALLY identifies the true RINOS. Essentially, the same block stopped Jeff Leach’s budget amendment to stop using state taxes on building toll roads.) So losses will have to be factored in as well as wins.

Just remember: NOTHING COUNTS THAT DOES NOT BECOME LAW! Wins or losses.

The ‘trial’ of the session will be held some time this summer after the regular session and after any special session have been completed.  Look for further announcements.

Message to the Texas Legislature: we are watching and taking notes.  And we’ve learned a LOT about the games played; actual results are all that matter.

Future Trial of the 84th TX Legislative Session

January 14, 2015

First off, we’d like to extend our deepest appreciation to the 19 courageous reps who voted for their conservative values over the power brokers of Austin in the Texas House Speaker race: Rodney Anderson, Dustin Burrows, Pat Fallon, Bryan Hughes, Mark Keough, Stephanie Klick, Matt Krause, Jeff Leach, Matt Rinaldi, Scott Sanford, Matt Schaefer, Matt Shaheen, David Simpson, Stuart Spitzer, Jonathan Stickland, Tony Tinderholt, Scott Turner, Molly White, Bill Zedler.

Next, we are announcing, considering the Speaker vote and our specific commitment in that regard, the North Texas Tea Party will be scheduling a Citizen’s trial of the the 84th Legislative Session as to whether it fulfilled the commitment of MANY that it would be an a conservative reflection of the constituents expressed mandate given November 4th, 2014.  This is the current proposal:

TIMEFRAME: 30-60 days after the end of ALL sessions

DEFENSE TEAM: volunteer State Reps- previously TeaApproved- who supported the Speaker

PROSECUTORS: Selected members of specific conservative watchdog groups

JUDGE: A local conservative elected official- NOT part of the legislature (nor a candidate for it)

JURY: The NTTP Vetting Committee

The ‘trial’ will be recorded for posting in its entirety, plus relevant sections in isolation.

The prosecution and defense will have 20 minute introductions, followed by 45-90 minutes Q&A, and 5 minute closing statements from both sides. . ‘Witnesses’ may or may not be called.

Jury decision will be final: a finding of guilt will leave the ‘death penalty’ in place and no supporter of the Speaker will be eligible for NTTP TeaApproval and resources.  Exoneration will lift the ‘death penalty’ and all requesting state reps will be considered through the normal process.

For those who do not understand what the North Texas Tea Party is: we are a specialized candidate vetting and legislative advocacy group.  We do NOT recruit candidates- we merely vett them (Recruiting would remove objectivity). Our well-known abilities at this resulted in nearly all statewide candidates this last cycle sought to be vetted, and a couple of major donors, realizing the power and value of our multigroup voting guides, sent donations unsolicited by us to pay for mass distributions of those guides. Our voting guides were voluntarily downloaded over 23,000 times and we sent out 130,000 mailers last cycle; this made the difference in multiple close races.  We provide a service to voters who trust our work, ethics and political philosophy.

Texas Speaker Race visited by Sigmund Freud

January 8, 2015

Tonight, there was a debate at SMU between new Rep. Matt Rinaldi and Rep. Jason Villalba.  It was lively- with the audience of 300-350 about 90-95% Scott Turner’s supporters (Do ANY normal citizens or activists actually voice support publicly for Joe Straus??)
First, the most amusing clip: Freud stand up and metaphorically slapped Jason Villalba upside the head.

He also PLEADED for an opponent in the next election.  It’s pretty clear he’ll get his wish.

The full debate is here.  Watch and marvel on what a gem NTTP TeaApproved Matt Rinaldi is!