Must Read Texas – December 15, 2013

Sales Tax Receipts Sharply Up;
Sebelius, Sessions & Issa on DMN Opinion Page on ACA;
AP on Dealing with the Multi-Billion Pension Shortfall;
AP: George P. Moves Away from Bush Name;
NPR on Cornyn; DMN’s Gillman on Stockman;
Mackowiak & Stanford on the War on Christmas;
Texas Secretary of State John Steen to Resign in January
Arnold Garcia Retires; TT Hiring a Development Officer
Good afternoon from Austin.
Let’s get you caught up as we’ve been a little behind.

Here we go:


Here’s TT’s Aman Batheja with the news:

The oil drilling boom’s impact on Texas coffers continues to outpace officials’ expectations, according to a report released by the Texas comptroller’s office on Thursday.

Comptroller Susan Combs reported that Texas ended the 2012-13 biennium with a $2.6 billion surplus, more than double the $964 million surplus her office projected over the summer. The report also predicts that Texas taxes paid by energy development firms will be at least $2 billion more than earlier projections, resulting in $8 billion in the state’s piggy bank by 2015.

The revisions means that the Rainy Day Fund could be more flush than expected for the 2015 legislative session, even after lawmakers backed measures asking voters to approve tapping the fund’s revenue stream for water and road projects.

Full story is here.

Your absolute must clicks:
> Two views on Obamacare in today’s DMN.  Here’s an op ed from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Here’s an op ed from U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Darrell Issa (R-CA).
> AP on George P. Bush moving slightly away from the Bush name, with quotes from Bushies Mark McKinnon and Karen Hughes, among others.
> AP: Texas weighs fixes to multi-billion pension shortfall.
> NPR’s Alan Greenblatt reports on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) conservative credentials.
> DMN’s Todd Gillman reports on the slow-arriving support for U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman’s primary bid.
> Texas Secretary of State John Steen resigned, effective in January.


MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I share our opposing views on the ‘War on Christmas’ in today’sAustin American-Statesman.

Here’s Jason’s (behind paywall):

A letter from the front lines of the War on Christmas
Monday, Dec. 15, 2013
By Jason Stanford

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World—

Fellow Citizens & compatriots—

I am besieged, by 1,000 or more of the Republicans under Santa Claus — The War on Christmas is all but lost — The walls cannot long withstand the cannonade of feigned outrage — our flag of embattled tolerance still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat.

The defeat has long been expected since the armies of commerce and Christianity joined forces, but even in our defensive posture we did not expect stores to bombard us with Christmas carols on Halloween. When the assault came, our disguised troops were extorting the populace for confectionery, leaving our front lines undefended. Now they’re selling Christmas trees out of our Tactical Operations Center.

Our lines overrun, we were powerless to stop Christmas’ assault. For every overhyped complaint about a religious observance on government property, there are thousands of Holiday pageants in public schools featuring songs of Jesus, miracles and mangers. Everywhere you look, homes blaze with colored lights. Normally sane men consider gifting their wives luxury sedans adorned with giant red bows and buying their children expensive electronics. Children pose urgent inquiries to their parents about the coming home invasion from this “Santa.”

Even in the Peoples’ Republic of Austin, long a citadel for liberalism, the inhabitants have happily laid down their arms and picked up Gingerbread lattes. The local government forces its citizenry to march a Trail of Lights to appease the invaders. For all the preparations for merriment available to the eye, one must assume that the resistance has gone underground and remains in hiding.

Our allies are abandoning our War on Christmas. On television’s “Glee,” that noted haven for untraditional values, a recent episode featured a Jewish girl, a gay man and a lesbian singing, “Hark now hear the angels sing, ‘A king was born today’/And man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”

My sons, I fear, have quit The Cause. My heart swelled with pride when I saw them inscribe lists of demands. Images of dictating the terms of surrender in the War on Christmas danced in my head, but these hopes were dashed when I chanced to look upon their notepads wherein they had listed Lego products of such dizzying variety that I had to calm my nerves with a tonic.

I can find no safe harbor in this War on Christmas, from the cloying appeals to purchase durable goods for loved ones. There is no refuge from the assumption that the Christ child is appeased by our obligatory and stressful preparations for the annual observance of his arrival. Our lives are henceforth measured in shopping days, and they are dwindling.

It seems I am the lone holdout in the War on Christmas. Tell my wife I loved her — even though she asked me to get the Christmas decorations out of storage and to untangle the lights so we can put up a tree. And I need to make my reindeer cookies, and send my parents their presents, and send out the Christmas cards. … I question my own resolve.

Perhaps some who don’t celebrate this Christian holiday pleaded for tolerance in the public sphere, but the carols drowned out their voices long ago. Others might have mistakenly believed that in a pluralistic democracy all are welcome, even those who meekly ask for respect for their minority views. They have since been re-educated that tolerance is discrimination. This War on Christmas caused needless acrimony and bloodshed, though the blood was as phony as the offense took at “Happy Holidays,” a term meant only to draw the circle of good tidings a little wider.

As long as conservatives insist on a politically rigid observance of Christmas, there will be others who remember talk of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, though they long ago abandoned their posts. The rebellion in this War on Christmas is over. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the Star of Bethlehem now stands, I will fight this War on Christmas no more forever.

Stanford is an Austin political consultant.

Here’s mine (behind paywall):

The war on Christmas is real
Monday, Dec. 15, 2013
By Matt Mackowiak

I once heard then-U.S. Rep. and now-Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., say something that I quite liked: “I’m a Christian, an American, a conservative and a Republican — in that order.” It quite nicely sums up how I feel.

Even if you are liberal, you can substitute liberal and Democrat in and be fine.

Every year around this time, we hear stories about a “War on Christmas.” I am not going to defend and personally guarantee every “War on Christmas” story that someone, somewhere has publicized. But we do know that public schools have banned celebrations or mentions of Christmas. Many companies and public institutions formally encourage individuals to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” In 2005 Lowe’s began labeling their Christmas trees as “holiday trees.”

In many cases, efforts to prevent Americans from publicly celebrating Christmas are dealt with before legal action occurs.

In two specific Texas cases, legal action has occurred:

• In Plano in 2003, three elementary school children became victims of religious viewpoint discrimination in Morgan v. Swanson, what is now referred to as the “Candy Cane” case. These young students brought holiday goodie bags with candy canes that had religious messages on them and they were threatened by school officials. That case is ongoing although an initial victory has been won by the “pro Christmas” faction over the school district for infringing on the constitutional rights of the three students.

• A federal judge found the Katy school district had “unlawfully discriminated” against students in a variety of ways related to celebrating Christmas.

• A Frisco school district PTA email before Thanksgiving outlined a list of “Winter Party Rules” banning any references to Christmas or any other religious holiday. The email even banned the colors “red and green” and outlawed Christmas trees at school parties. Thankfully, State Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, fought these rules and the issue appears to have been satisfactorily resolved. For a time, it appeared that First Amendment Rights in America did not exist in the Frisco district.

The silent majority of America is Christian. I would guess 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas (or other traditional winter holidays) in some form or fashion. An individual or family can decide on their own if the Christmas season should be celebrated with a religious element to it — most people do, but in America you have that Constitutional right to choose for yourself.

In my Catholic family, we have always celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, with midnight Mass, with prayer, with family traditions that have continued through the generations, but also with the Christian virtues of gratitude, charity and humility.

Who could be against these things?

The honest answer is the mainstream media, the Left and the atheist/agnostic movement.


Christianity threatens government.

In the liberal mind, government should be all powerful. Christianity, to Christians, stands above government. Apart from it. Uninfringed by it.

This is a threat.

Christianity threatens liberalism because Christianity preaches self-restraint, personal responsibility, morality. Christians are not perfect — we are all sinners. But we strive for perfection.

Who could be against that?

One of the finest traditions in America is Christmas.

While small children may occasionally get caught up in the materialism of the season, they will quickly learn that giving a gift brings you more happiness than receiving one. That virtue, in and of itself, has tremendous, life-changing power and impacts our society positively every single day.

If a public institution, say a city or a public school, bans Christmas traditions in the name of political correctness, Christians and Americans should stand up and say no.

In Texas, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, HB 308, the Merry Christmas Law, a bill that protects Christmas in our public institutions by “allowing parents, teachers, students and school administrators” to celebrate Christmas in public schools “without fear of censorship, litigation, or persecution.” An outstanding Texas nonprofit, Texas Values, has done excellent work in this area and recently launched to help educate Texas about their rights under the law.

Let’s not complicate things unnecessarily. Christmas is a good thing. It should be celebrated, by those who wish to do so. It should certainly be allowed as the Constitution unquestionably protects free speech and freedom of religion.

In that spirit, as a Christian and an American, I would like to wish you a wonderful and Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Mackowiak is an Austin- and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.


Here’s the email that Austin American-Statesman editorial page editor Arnold Garcia sent to the AAS newsroom on Friday, as he retired from the paper:

I walked into a meeting a couple of years ago that I knew was going to be a real gut wrencher. Fred Zipp, the editor then, had briefed me beforehand that we were about to announce a consolidation of the copy desks which meant that people were going to lose their jobs. We had just dodged a bullet on sale of the paper and had already undergone some downsizing

Once the copy editors were assembled, Fred dropped the bomb. I looked around the room and can still see some of the expressions. There was shock, some understandable anger and overall anxiety.

They asked questions and Fred did his best to answer. Emotions were high.

Once the questions petered out, they all got up and went back to work. The meeting was on a Friday(ever notice that all announcements are made on Friday?). The Saturday paper was, as usual, a quality product.

I was never prouder of my colleagues than at that moment. Accountants, lawyers or anyone else would have reacted to the news by going out and getting drunk.

They reacted to the news by putting out the newspaper. That’s what we do. I am proud to have been one of you and always will be.

Now, I’ll quote John Hill, the late and storied Texas attorney general when he briefed on the negative progress of a case. Hill pondered the bad news for a moment and replied in his trademark lisp: “Well, in that case, all we can do is thank the judge for the use of the hall and go home.”

So, thanks for the use of the hall.

I’ll let Mr. Sinatra close the show.  

– Mark Hussey is the new interim president at Texas A&M University, but will not be a candidate for the full time position.
– NRO profiles Texas Right to Life.
– The Houston Chronicle reports (behind paywall) on the backgrounds of several proposed Democratic candidates for the Texas Ethics Commission.

2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– SAEN / Chron’s Peggy Fikac’s weekly column (behind paywall) is on signs of increased Democratic statewide competitiveness in Texas.
– DMN’s Garrett & Stuz report on the GOP primary for Lt. Gov.
– Roll Call reports on the top federal races in Texas in 2014.
– Amazon’s top selling coloring book is about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
– DMN’s Bob Garrett reports that Texas Comptroller candidate and State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) is proposing that the Legislature move the Performance Review function back to the Comptroller’s office, so it can be used more regularly to cut waste, fraud, abuse and duplication in state government.  Here’s the campaign’s press release.  (Disclaimer: Hilderbran is a client)

Other stories of interest:
– UT president Bill Powers survived a job review late last week, but was encouraged to “improve.”
– Dr. Dick Miller explains and defends “affluenza” to Anderson Cooper.
– Texas set another electricity usage record last week due to the lingering cold,
– Beneath Yellowstone, a volcano that could wipe out the U.S.

Lighter clicks:
– All your favorite cats in one place. (You’re welcome, hat tip: Sissycat)
30 brilliant ideas for your bedroom.
– A 
simply amazing story about Robert Levinson, a CIA agent in prison in Iran for four years after an “unapproved” mission.
– This guy is 
crazy and funny. (Not safe for work)
Sledding at Fenway?
– In the next 30 years, 
Austin’s population will double and 95,000 new cars will be on the highways.
– In-N-Out 
opened in Austin (Dec. 12).
– A list of the top 25 jobs in college basketball has 
only one Texas school on it.
– Pat Forde on Mack Brown leaving UT 
with “class and commitment.”
– 10 possible successors to Mack Brown at UT.
– Texas A&M University has 
finalized Kevin Sumlin’s six year contract.

Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– This will bring a tear to your eye.
– A five year-old honors her parents in a special way.
– From one 43 to another.
– 14 amazing photos from Sunday’s Army-Navy game in the snow.
– An inspiring story of a dog’s rescue and survival.


AP: Civil rights group: State passive on voter turnout (12/16/13 12:49pm)

AP: Texas governor’s candidates speak on deadly wreck (12/16/13 12:49pm)

AP: George P. takes baby steps away from Bush name (12/16/13 12:42pm)

AP: Texas weighs fixes for multibillion-dollar pension shortfall (12/16/13 12:41pm)

AP: Congressman Joaquín Castro welcomes first child (12/16/13 12:40pm)

NPR: Is Sen. John Cornyn Conservative Enough For Texas? (12/16/13 12:39pm)

TT: Comptroller: Texas Budget Surplus Bigger Than Expected (12/16/13 12:39pm)

NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: The Left’s Coordinated Assault on Free Speech (12/16/13 12:36pm)

DMN: Texas considers options to avoid pension shortfall for state retirees (12/16/13 12:15pm)

DMN: Delta offers a lot of flights out of Dallas Love Field (12/16/13 12:15pm)

DMN: Lieutenant governor showdown tops list as primary fields set (12/16/13 12:12pm)

DMN: Hilderbran vows to bring back comptroller’s efficiency drives (12/16/13 11:59am)

DMN: Record Texas sales tax month excites some, but Combs is cautious (12/16/13 11:58am)

DMN: Lawmakers on right aren’t flocking to help Stockman unseat Cornyn (12/16/13 11:55am)

FWST ($): Politicians drawing support from North Texas (12/16/13 11am)

CHRON ($): Ex-Houston lawmaker with a checkered past among candidates for state ethics panel (12/16/13 10:58am)

CHRON ($): Only two women will hold seats on Houston City Council next year (12/16/13 10:58am)

CHRON ($): Hiring of first-year teachers drops sharply in Texas (12/16/13 10:48am)

CHRON: White House plays host to mayors and state leaders on jobs and health care (12/16/13 10:35am)

CHRON: Gene Green introduces bill to protect public health (12/16/13 10:22am)

SAEN ($): VIA transit board to get new members (12/16/13 9:47am)

SAEN ($): Proposal would give military lawyers major role in prosecuting sex cases (12/16/13 9:46am)

TT: When Public Money, Private Firms Intersect in Schools (12/16/13 9:08am)

KVUE ABC AUSTIN: Ethan Couch sentence becomes issue in governor’s race (12/16/13 9:06am)

AAS ($): Cornyn’s votes not so simple to sum up (12/16/13 8:56am)

AAS ($): Texas employee pension fund could run dry without fixes (12/16/13 8:56am)

AAS ($): David Dewhurst draws support of top law enforcement groups (12/16/13 12:28am)

NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Fighting for Life in Texas (12/15/13 11:56pm)

UPI: Coloring book starring Sen. Ted Cruz is Amazon’s top seller (12/15/13 11:47pm)

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: Texas A&M U. Regents Reject Governor’s Pick for Interim President (12/15/13 10:33am)

POLITIFACT: On statements made by SCF about Senator John Cornyn (12/15/13 10:25am)

REUTERS: Texas Industries working with Citi on possible sale-Bloomberg (12/15/13 9:45am)

WOAI 1200 AM SAN ANTONIO: Texas Fracking Output to Surpass Several OPEC Nations in 2014 (12/15/13 9:40am)

TT: Vast Rio Grande a Source of Numerous Legal Battles (12/15/13 9:21am)

ROLL CALL (Heard on the Hill): What Ted Cruz Talked About at 10,000 Feet (12/14/13 4:46pm)

TT: UT President Powers Keeps Job, Encouraged to Improve (12/14/13 4:37pm)

TT: Texas Lt. Gov. Hopefuls Voice Support for Creationism (12/14/13 4:36pm)

TT: Hussey Named Interim President of Texas A&M University (12/14/13 4:35pm)

THE HILL: Cummings convinced Cruz running in 2016 (12/13/13 6:36pm)

POLITICO: Ted Cruz coloring book selling fast (12/13/13 6:36pm)

OFFICE OF SECRETARY STEEN: Texas Secretary of State John Steen will step down in January (12/13/13 6:34pm)

TT: Claims Drop Under State-Run Women’s Health Program (12/13/13 12:22pm)

THE HILL: Chamber of Commerce backs Cornyn against Stockman (12/13/13 12:05pm)

TT: El Paso Electric Reaches Deal on Proposed Power Plant (12/12/13 11:33pm)

NYT: Texas Plan to Execute Mexican May Harm U.S. Ties Abroad, Kerry Says (12/12/13 11:09pm)

TT / KUHF: Oil, Gas Make Texas Big Draw for Foreign Firms (12/12/13 11:03pm)

TT: Road Funding Figures Surprise Some Counties (12/12/13 11:03pm)

REUTERS: Lingering cold sends Texas’ December power use to another record (12/12/13 11:02pm)

POLITICO: Ted Cruz opposes budget deal (12/12/13 11pm)

UPI: Lawyers seek delay in execution of Mexican national in Texas (12/12/13 10:56pm)

Author: Must Read Texas

Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) & Jason Stanford @MustReadTexas