February 07, 2015

Thoughts on Kory Watkins, oil prices, and gunking up the #txlege

Well, the three-ring circus is in town, and, the good news for circus lovers is that it’s got four months left on its run.

The bad news is that the town is Austin, and the circus is the Texas Legislature. I could comment on how elephants are long-known as circus animals, but that would be too easy.

But, it’s not just the 150 men and women inside the state House and the 31, plus Lite Guv Dan Patrick, inside the Senate. It’s those on the outside, too.

Whoda thunk that Dan Patrick would ever be called a flip-flopper, or not conservative enough? Well, Open Carry Tarrant County has already said just that about him. And, that Kory Watkins of that group would issue death threats while accusing people of treason if such a measure were opposed, then be dumb enough to believe he could hide from the Internet.

Of course, when your preferred method of public relations is (journalism jargon alert) brandishing guns in public, and brandishing them even more closely to people who don’t see things the same way you do, there’s good reason for Patrick to schwaffle a bit on the issue, at least on the possibility of passage of open carry legislation. That’s because big city urban and suburban soccer moms, whether they pull the elephant or the donkey lever in the voting booth, aren’t totally comfortable with this.

That said, a number of studies have shown that Members of Congress think their districts are more conservative than they actually are, and I'll venture that some of this applies to state legislators.

That said, squeaky wheels are more vocal, especially on the reactionary side, and politicians get nervous about that. Combine that with Texas' notoriously low turnout for midterm elections, and its notoriously low turnout by Hispanics, and the cream, or other substances, of the likes of Kory Watkins rise to the top, or settle to the bottom like sludge and gunk up the works.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has other things on its mind.

Chief among them would be state revenues for the next two years, and more specifically, the portion of revenues coming from oil and gas production.

New Comptroller Glenn Hegar has made his revenue estimate, and is standing by it, despite worries from non-partisan analysts and think tanks indicating he may not be “bearish” enough about the current slump in oil prices.

Count me among those who think this way. Let’s hope that, as things play out more within the Lege’s 140-day session, and more analysts weigh in, that a majority of that 150 and 31 put a bit of prudence in the hopper.

Scuffles about open carry rules aside, that’s the big issue. It’s doubly big since the Texas Supreme Court has said it will not start wading through the state’s appeal of losing the lawsuit on school finance constitutionality until this year’s legislative session is over.

Also, due to that, there will be less money to put in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. That, in turn may affect action based on constitutional amendments that voters passed in 2013 and 2014.

The 2013 amendment was to fund water development projects from Rainy Day Fund loans. The 2014 measure was to split in half money that would go to the Rainy Day Fund, with the other half being put in a state highway fund.

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