Bits and Pieces

—Lt. Gov. Patrick does the state a great service by passing the bill by Senator Hall to stop the practice by cities of improperly using red light cameras to trap drivers.

—on other Senate news, Patrick appoints a formidable conference committee for budget negotiations, ensuring that citizens will get a budget that comes in under the spending cap and funds only the necessary functions of government. It will be interesting to see whether Senator Kolkhorst uses her position to enhance the no bid fuel contracts she has at various state institutions, or whether she steers clear of the conflict.

—as of today, Rep. Stickland, besides continuing to reinforce his position as the least effective floor debater ever in the history of the state, is increasing the daily cost to the Texas taxpayers at a rate of close to $6200 per day of session. His inane requests to place matters in the journal which are already of record, and insist on record votes on each and every action of the House, solely at the behest of employer Tim Dunn and his cronies, should be noted by his voters. At the rate he is going, he will have singlehandedly added close to $500,000 to the cost of operating the House. Fiscal conservative? Nope.

—the media hoopla over the supposed meltdown between the Big 3 this week is much ado about nothing, suitable only for session gossip fodder. This is the time of session when calendars get crowded, tempers get short, and disagreements that have been simmering for months come to light. The private exchange of the people involved should have been just that: private. These gentlemen have much to do and little time to do it, and members, at least the ones on our hall, are feeling good about the conservative accomplishments completed and those yet to be done.

—reports of sightings of Regent Wallace Hall and Dunn lobbyist Mike Sullivan prowling the halls of the Capitol and the Attorney General’s building this week were highest on Monday and Tuesday. No report on the topics being promoted by these Dunn dark money beneficiaries.

—speaking of dark money, Dunn has never reported one contribution as the result of his “1836” fundraising campaign. This week the tactics shifted from using Texas heroes to line their pockets, to straight up begging for $250,000 to line their pockets. While this 250k just about covers the cost to Dunn of keeping Sullivan around, it’s not known whether this newest effort is a result of the drop in oil prices, or fall off in dark money contributions that are compelling Dunn to ask for this money.

Playing Poorly

In a series of political moves that would be expected of a rookie to the Capitol scene, Lt. Governor Patrick continues to make poor plays. I have already described his earlier moves against gubernatorial appointees in what is clearly his initiation of his all but declared run against Abbott in 2018. Those moves continue as the session deepens. Patrick has enlisted the aid of the lobby and pr operations of mega donor Tim Dunn and his cronies in his effort to embarrass the Governor. Recent postings by head Dunn lobbyist Mike Sullivan and his young boys at AgendaWise are attacking Abbott over his position on tax relief, appointments and legislative priorities.

And perfectly on cue, when Patrick last week saw that his ” property tax cut” , which isn’t anything of the sort, had hit a wall in the House, he made his call to Dunn to crank up the lobby and media machine and attack the House. Blog posts, Twitter, mail and Robocalls cranked up simultaneously, attacking members in their districts. It could be because he has figured out that the House wasn’t even paying attention to his wild machinations and bullying attempts. Speaker Bonnen, in his classic manner, was boringly dismissive of the Senate ” tax cut ” plan, calmly enjoying the attention a statewide official was giving him, and calmly offering to debate the Lt. Governor about the merits of the significant House tax cut plan versus those if the smoke and mirrors Senate plan. No word on whether Patrick is up to that. Friendly suggestion from here: don’t do it Governor Patrick. Your few years on the Senate floor didn’t prepare you for a real debate against a seasoned House member.

In another poorly executed move, and presumably to embarrass Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick has chosen to holdup the House border security bill that overwhelmingly passed the House over a month ago. Border security is far and away the number one priority for the Governor, the state and the voters. As good as Patrick is on the stump, voters don’t take lightly when politicians trade their safety and well-being for cheap political theater to advance their personal agenda. Patrick is all worked up and lashing out about his failed “tax cut plan”. Attacking the Governor and House members using lobby operations of huge donors is one thing. Putting constituents in danger is another.

It is notable that the Dunn lobby machine has been eerily silent on border security for quite some time. Is it possible that Dunn has exercised his noted ability as the “Lt. Gov. Whisperer” and is opposed to border security? Dunn, Wallace Hall and Mike Sullivan have all been recently sighted at the East end of the Capitol. Sullivan has what amounts to a reserved office space it is reported by senate staff. Bills with the Dunn stamp of approval get moved quickly according to Senators, some of whom have been made to explain themselves to Dunn at the insistence of Patrick. Very odd.

Expectations for Patrick at session beginning were high. He had hired good folks with experience to guide him through the intricacies of leading. But no one with even a basic level of understanding of the legislative process would recommend his moves this session. Patrick knows from watching that the House will not bow to attacks from Dunn. Dunn has spent millions to fund these attacks against the Speaker and his leadership team, and has gotten nowhere. In fact, he has gone in reverse. Dunn and his lobby operations are openly derided in the House. (Could be why they’ve stayed at the Senate end this session. Although they were on our hallway last week for a lobby visit ). Now Patrick is using the entire Dunn machine to attack the Speaker and most R members with very expensive, clearly coordinated, attacks about the merits of the Senate “tax cut plan”.

This attack plan, and holding border security hostage, is playing political games. And playing them poorly.

Another Bad Week

I had to take time to write earlier this week because of all the leads being sent me from my fellow staffers. Tim Dunn’s cronies and lobbyists have been storming the halls working against everything and losing at them all.

Last week it was the budget where Dunn managed to get only 5 of his 19 sheep to follow him and vote against the very lean budget. Oops.

This week he marshaled his forces of threat against the Governor, again, on behalf of Lt. Gov. Patrick, to defeat the Governor’s signature piece of legislation on Pre-K. Only got 18 votes on that one and his “conservatives” voted with D’s to get to that number. Oops.

Then his fellow dark money pal Regent Hall made a run, as requested by Dunn, to get access to confidential student information so he could leak it. The UT Board was able to prevent Hall from interrogating the security company. However, thanks to the help of fellow anti-UT regents Cranberg and Pejovic, Hall will be able to view the documents. But much like a supervised visit for an abusive parent, that will only occur in the presence of Chancellor McRaven. Rest assured, Hall will leak whatever he finds, or wants to make up that he finds, as soon as he gets the viewing. It’s a perfect situation for a serial liar: only he sees the confidential information, makes up the unverifiable contents, then leaks it to his pal’s media outlets. Stay tuned for this one.

As I finish this, one of my reporters is standing over in House State Affairs where Dunn has staked out his lobbyist Mike Sullivan who is catching members and was apparently overheard telling one of Dunn’s disappointment in his vote today. I guess if being a lobbyist means you have to be effective at some level, Dunn’s team definitely doesn’t qualify as lobbyists.

Additionally this week, the Senate rejected the plan backed by Dunn to send the embattled Public Integrity Unit to the Attorney General. This has been yet another major issue backed by Dunn and his cronies, who wanted to move the unit to an office where they had invested millions of dollars to control. But even this Senate can’t be fully purchased by Dunn, and the body took a much more reasoned and appropriate approach to solve this issue. Oops.