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Legislative Update Oct Vol 2

Alexandra del Moral Mealer - Hold Texas


I was planning to write an update highlighting my new role as Victory Chair in support of the Republican Party of Texas and Senator Cruz’s re-election campaign, but given the barbaric attacks against the state of Israel, which include war crimes against women and children, I think it’s important to highlight the state of the world since the Biden administration took office. Whether reflecting on the incompetent and deadly Afghan withdrawal, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the decisions to end the “remain in Mexico” policy and institute “catch and release” for illegal border crossers on our southern border, to most recently, the failed policies of appeasement with Iran that have facilitated the unprecedented loss of life for Israeli civilians—time and time again, we have seen the impact of weak American leadership. Let us also not forget that China is watching and preparing to seize Taiwan while nuclear-armed North Korea eyes South Korea and beyond.

“We know only too well that war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted.”- Ronald Reagan


I do not believe we can have a strong and thriving Texas with weak and ineffectual leadership in D.C. Texas is very much a battleground state in 2024 with an unprecedented $100MM expected to be spent to turn our state blue (Beto raised ~$80MM for his 2018 senate campaign) and we will need conservatives to turn out and vote early to keep Texas, Texas.

In reviewing the lessons learned from my race as well as the other county races, it is clear that we have to get the base out, and get their vote counted early. To the surprise of many, in the countywide races, we actually flipped the votes we were targeting but underperformed in getting conservative voters out. In Harris County, only 43% of registered voters cast a vote and there were at least 100K of ideological conservative voters who did not cast a ballot. We must do better.

As Victory Chair, my sole focus for the next year is ensuring Texas stays red. Despite the differences that will be litigated in Republican primaries, we all need to come together to make sure every Republican vote is counted, and counted early.

Houston’s next mayor to face budget, planning decisions.

After eight years under the leadership of Sylvester Turner, Houston will have a new mayor in January.

Seventeen candidates filed to run for the seat in the Nov. 7 election, and whoever wins will have the task of balancing the city’s budget. Houston’s mayor is considered one of the most powerful in the U.S., experts said, with the power to single-handedly determine the agenda for Houston City Council’s weekly meetings as well as a vote on each item.

However, a ballot proposition this year could also put some power back in the hands of council members.

Two-minute impact

Turner’s successor will have roughly six months after the election before significant budget decisions must be made, Houston Controller Chris Brown said.

When Turner entered office, he faced a $160 million budget hole, and he will leave with a projected surplus for the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year of roughly $420.

In a presentation Brown gave to Houston City Council Oct. 4, he projected the city’s ending fund balance for FY 2023-24 at $420.4 million. At the same meeting, the city’s finance department gave its own projection for the balance: $466.2 million.

Brown said the city has balanced several budgets under Turner with one-time funding sources, including federal funding from programs such as the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The challenge with using one-time financing sources to shore up a budget gap is they are exactly that: they’re one-time,” Brown said. “So you find that you’ll have that money this year, but then you’ve got to figure out what happens the following year.”

In 2016, the estimated structural deficit was $150 million. As of 2023, Brown estimated it was around $300 million. In public statements, Turner has said the city is in a good economic position, pointing to the $420 million projected for the general fund reserve. By city policy, the reserve must never fall below 7.5% of the general fund expenditures—minus debt service and Pay-As-You-Go, or PAYGO, funding. Brown’s projections would put the city at $237.3 million over that threshold at the end of FY 2023-24.

Addressing the deficit may result in layoffs, Brown said, estimating that there could need to be as many as 3,000 employees by FY 2025-26. The city of Houston did not respond to requests for comment.

However, Brown also applauded Turner’s work to lower the city’s unfunded pension liability—the difference between the estimated cost of future benefits and the assets set aside to pay for them—from about $8.2 billion to around $2 billion.

Zooming in

Following the November election and a likely runoff election in December, Houston’s next mayor will take over in January. What happens next will largely depend on which candidate wins, but past mayoral transitions can give some insight into the process, said Renee Cross, senior executive director with the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. Two early decisions will involve transition teams and the potential naming of new department heads.


“What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue.”

– Thomas Paine​

Harris County Taxpayers Set to Pay Democrat Consultant $300/Hour

Posted by Mark McCaig on 8 October, 2023

Harris County Commissioners Court is set to approve a contract with a consulting firm owned by a prominent Democratic political consultant at their meeting this Tuesday. According to the agenda posted for the October 10 meeting of Harris County Commissioners Court, the Court will consider a contract with Angle Strategies, Inc. “for consulting services related to redrawing Harris County Election Precinct boundaries to comply with Chapter 42 of the Texas Election Code.”

Angle Strategies, Inc. is a Washington, DC-area consulting firm owned by prominent Democratic political Consultant Matt Angle. According to the proposed contract, “Matt Angle will help the County comply with Texas Election Code Chapter 42 by redrawing the boundaries of Harris County Election Precincts that are required to be redrawn.” Under the terms of the proposed contract, Angle Strategies will be paid $300 per hour for services rendered under the contract.

Matt Angle is the founder and director of the Lone Star Project PAC, which supports Democratic candidates across Texas. Among those assisted by the Lone Star Project include Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who received an in-kind contribution valued at $35,000 from the Lone Star Project last year. According to a report from Axios published in June, Angle is also a senior advisor to a SuperPAC that intends to spend millions of dollars opposing Ted Cruz in the 2024 election.

On social media, Angle has been very complimentary towards Democratic officials in Harris County while spewing vitriol towards conservatives. In 2020, Angle praised Democratic Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis for his role in creating an election administrator’s office in Harris County.

“Harris Co was plagued for years by @TexasGOP vote suppressors in Clerk & Tax Assessor Collector offices. @RodneyEllis is taking the lead to assure fair & efficient elections,” wrote Angle. After a series of elections plagued with irregularities and mismanagement, the Texas legislature passed a bill earlier this year that shut down the Harris County elections administrator’s office and transferred the duties of the office back to the elected Harris County Clerk and Tax Assessor-Collector.

Among Republican leaders attacked by Angle include Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who Angle claimed supported racist “Jim Crow election laws” and “racially gerrymandered maps intended to undermine Texas voters & democracy itself.” Angle also described a property tax relief proposal supported by Phelan as an “appraisal cap boondoggle.” State Representative Briscoe Cain also drew the ire of Angle, who described Cain as “the essence of stupidity mixed with bad intentions.”

The proposed contract with Angle Strategies that is up for consideration this week is not the first time that Harris County has done business with the firm. According to payment records from the Harris County Auditor, Harris County taxpayers paid Angle Strategies $194,225.33 last year. Angle Strategies has also done work for Dallas County related to redistricting.

Texas Legislature to Tackle School Choice, Border, and Vaccine Mandate Ban in Third Special Session

The governor has said he intends to call as many special sessions as is necessary to to pass his favored proposal for education savings accounts.

The Texas Legislature will convene Monday for the start of this year’s third special session, getting the ball rolling on the latest attempt to pass some form of school choice as well as additional border security measures.

In his proclamation last week, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a school choice program that encompasses “all school children” — though such legislation faces a rocky path in the Texas House, whose GOP membership is divided on the issue.

State Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene), one of the 24 House Republicans who voted for the voucher program prohibition budget amendment back in April, said recently that he would only support a school choice program if it has some restrictions in to whom it applies.

“I’ve not seen a bill that I could support,” he told Big Country Homepage. “Because, again, up to now, it’s been mostly a universal discussion. There’s been no limitations, no strings attached, no accountability. And so, under those types of scenarios and conditions, I would not be voting for that.”

Meanwhile, the more conservative wing of the caucus is wary about a school choice program that isn’t universal. State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) has planted his flag there, saying on Saturday, “School Choice for all! Everyone. Not just some.”

Throw in the House Democratic Caucus, which is nearly uniformly against education savings accounts or vouchers, and the issue is very much up in the air in the lower chamber.

The Texas House is going to try and pass school choice with an increase to the school district basic allotment and a teacher pay raise — one vote for all three with members voting for the aspect they like, and holding their nose on the aspects they don’t.

A poll of 21 GOP-held Texas House districts — commissioned by Abbott back in April but released over the weekend — showed 58 percent support and 27 percent opposition to school choice among all voters. Among Republicans, that support figure jumps to 69 percent with 17 percent opposed.

However, the Senate and governor have previously objected to a significantly limited school choice program during the regular session, adding complications to the dynamic.

Abbott has said he intends to call multiple special sessions if necessary to pass his favored education savings accounts proposal, but the Legislature currently has no money left for another special.

That money could be appropriated, however — special sessions tend to cost between $2 million and $3 million — especially after the Texas Comptroller’s most recent financial update that shows an extra $2.5 billion to work with in Fiscal Year 2024’s unencumbered balance.

It could also be used to supplement those education issues on top of the $5 billion already itemized in the budget.

On border security, the governor named three items:

  • Create a state criminal offense for illegal foreign entry into Texas
  • Increase human smuggling penalties
  • Appropriate more funding for border barriers including the state’s wall

The first bill filed for the special session was state Sen. Brian Birdwell’s (R-Granbury) Senate Bill 11 establishing the improper entry crime.

Additionally, state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) re-filed his House Bill 20 from the regular session, a House priority item that would have created the Border Protection Unit and invoked the U.S. and Texas Constitutions’ invasion clauses — though without the invasion clause language.

That language is what state Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) successfully point of ordered, killing the bill during the regular session.

Below those categories on the proclamation are directives to investigate, and somehow address, the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County and to pass a ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates from private businesses.

But the first thing that is likely to happen when the Texas House convenes Monday is an attempt to oust Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), a vote that would require 76 votes or a majority of those present in the chamber. Such a motion is privileged, meaning it only requires one member to make it. But if the speaker chooses not to recognize that motion, it requires 75 members to second it to challenge the ruling of the chair, effectively its own referendum on the speakership.

If there is a vote, it is likely to fail in an overwhelming fashion. But after the acquittal of Attorney General Ken Paxton, a few House members in the more conservative wing of the caucus have called for a replacement in the speaker’s office — far from enough to oust Phelan, but it only takes one member is needed to trigger the vote if the speaker wants to gauge his support in the lower chamber.

After spending most of the year convened in Austin in some form or another, legislators are itching to make the special quick and get out of Dodge. But Texas must wait and see whether that’s possible, given the political difficulties of the issues and the tattered relationship between the House speaker and lieutenant governor.

Polling in 21 GOP House Districts Shows ‘Strong’ Support for School Choice Among Likely Voters

The poll commissioned by Gov. Greg Abbott found that school choice is “very important” to polled voters in the lead-up to the third special session.

In the lead-up to Texas’ much-anticipated school choice-focused special session, Gov. Greg Abbott commissioned a poll in April to gauge how important school choice is to those who live in Texas.

The poll, conducted by Cygnal, was commissioned in 21 Republican-held Texas House districts to understand the “wholistic picture” of how likely general election voters viewed school choice proposals. Included in the poll were more than 8,400 likely general election voters, 4,808 of which were Republicans.

In the 21 districts, 58 percent of overall voters supported school choice, including 69 percent of Republicans. Just 27 percent of overall voters opposed the proposal, while 17 percent of Republicans were opposed.

Messaging surrounding school choice is a key insight into how voters react and judge the issue.

According to the poll, “Freedom from Indoctrination” was a “much more likely” effective reason for supporting school choice among Republicans, with almost 60 percent agreeing. The purpose to “Empower Parents” also showed considerable favorability at just over 56 percent of Republicans polled.

However, the rhetoric about school choice’s potential negative impact on public schools does not matter as much to those polled. The fear that school choice would take resources from public schools had a 20.2 percent likelihood of impacting Republican likely voters.

The poll characterizes the results by stating it is “imperative” for state House members, many of which are up for re-election in 2024, to support school choice. The poll found that re-election support for a candidate in favor of school choice reached 34 percent overall and 49 percent for Republican voters. But for Republican candidates opposed to school choice, that support dropped to 25 percent overall and 28 percent for Republican voters.

The poll also asked likely voters about how Abbott’s endorsement affected their support for candidates.

“If Abbott endorses another candidate against the state representative in a Republican primary because he/she wouldn’t vote to provide school choice, the Abbott-endorsed candidate gets 57% while the state representative drops all the way to 19% in the primary.”

On top of that, the poll states, if Abbott endorsed a challenger in a Republican primary because the incumbent voted against school choice, 34 percent of primary voters polled would support the current representative while 43 percent would support the Abbott-endorsed candidate.

The Cygnal poll categorized voters into three kinds based on their opinions of school choice: “Persuadable” made up 23 percent, “School Choice Opposers” took 24 percent, and “School Choice Supporters” held the majority at 53 percent.

The segmentation analysis of these groups found the “persuadable” group is “undecided or ready for someone new on the re-elect ballot.” The demographics of this group tend to be middle-income moderate women without a college degree, which the poll states is a “crucial group for Republicans in general elections.”

Leadership in the Republican-led Legislature has backed school choice legislation, but could not agree on a proposal this past session.

Despite Abbott’s tour promoting educational freedom for parents and his continued calls for passing school choice legislation, neither the House or Senate were able to move a school choice plan across the finish line.

Now that the year’s third special session is set to begin, with an explicit focus on school choice legislation among other issues, the cross-chamber disagreements will come into a heightened focus, and how Abbott will endorse candidates based on their support for school choice could play a role in the minds of many lawmakers as they cast their votes in the coming weeks.

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