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Archive for May 3rd, 2017

Sigh, Hillary

Early Voting in Person for the HISD Prop 1 race is in the books and here is what we have in some select locales. West Gray had 1,797, West Loop 584, Palm Center 573, Sunnyside 495, Northeast 405, Hiram Clarke 347, Tracy Gee 323, Bayland 754, Ripley 150, HCC 132, Hardy 89 and Moody 291.

Pasadena had 3,204.

By the way, Pasadena gets the federal treatment this Saturday – deservedly so.

On to Saturday.

Who has the best record in MLB this morning?

Commentary said this yesterday:

SNL’s Michael Che said a couple or so weeks ago that Boston was the most racist city in the country.  Che wasn’t letdown at Fenway.

So, B’More’s Adam Jones was given the racist treatment at Fenway Monday night including use of the N-word. So, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued this very weak statement yesterday:

“The racist words and actions directed at Adam Jones at Fenway Park last night are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated at any of our ballparks. My office has been in contact with the Red Sox, and the club has made it clear that they will not tolerate this inexcusable behavior. Our 30 clubs will continue to work with fans and security to provide a family-friendly environment.  Any individual who behaves in such offensive fashion will be immediately removed from the ballpark and subject to further action.

The behavior of these few ignorant individuals does not reflect the millions of great baseball fans who attend our games.”

This statement is weak because he doesn’t call out Boston for the problem that they have had for a long time. He should have said something like “Boston, you have a very serious problem, so get your s__t together or else we are going to designate Fenway as a racist destination” or something like that. MLB needs to come down hard on these arseholes.

I am sure there are some Dems who want Hillary Clinton to go away and get off of the political stage. Commentary won’t go that far. She is entitled to be out there. I will say that I am not in the mood to hear her blame others for what happened last November. It was her campaign and she blew it. She ran a lousy campaign, pure and simple. A lot of the problems she had were self-inflicted. That doesn’t mean that the FBI director and the Russians get a free pass though. When I ran across her interview yesterday, I just let out a huge sigh. Oh, well.

From Bill King:

Houston Gets Vote on Pension Bonds!

As you may have heard, the Texas Senate passed a bill yesterday which makes sweeping changes to the City of Houston’s pension systems.  I am still reviewing the language of the final bill and will have a summary for you in a day or two, but one very important provision requires that future pension bonds be subject to voter approval.  

There has been a long-standing tradition in Texas that bonds repayable from property taxes, referred to as general obligation bonds, must be approved by voters.  In 1999, the Legislature formalized this tradition in Government Code §1251.

When the Legislature authorized pension bonds in 2003, the legislation was silent on whether voter approval was required.  The Attorney General’s office has previously ruled that this silence on the voter approval allowed municipalities to issue bonds without voter approval.*  So, the roughly $1.5 billion in pension bonds that have been issued by Houston, Dallas and El Paso, have all been issued without voter approval. 

Senator Huffman made an early commitment to include a vote on pension bonds in her bill.  Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Senator Bettencourt both backed her up on the commitment.  Turner initially railed against the provision, insisting it was a poison pill, but in negotiations over the weekend, Turner folded and agreed to its inclusion.  Apparently the “poison” was not so lethal after all.  

It is, however, unclear whether Houston taxpayers will get to weigh in on the initial $1 billion of bonds Turner intends to issue as part of the deal with the police and municipal plans for reduced benefits.  This is because unless the bill passes both houses of Legislature by a two-thirds majority it cannot become effective until September 1.  If it passes by a two-thirds majority, it becomes effective immediately on the Governor’s signature.  The Senate easily passed the measure by a two-thirds majority, but if the House does not, Turner would have a three-month window to try and rush through the bonds before the effective date.  

While issuing the bonds before the effective date would be an incredible slap in the face of Houston taxpayers, I am not particularly troubled by this possibility.  

Many of you will recall that during the campaign I advocated using pension bonds to get benefit concessions from the pension plans, but always said any such deal should be submitted to voters for approval.  Of course, during the campaign Turner was adamantly opposed to issuing pension bonds, but that is now the centerpiece of his pension plan.  

The purpose of requiring voter approval for pension bonds, which are inherently risky financial instruments, is to ensure they are not misused.  But the deal Turner struck, $1 billion of pension bonds for roughly $2.5 billion in benefit concessions, is a on balance a reasonable one.  I would have preferred that they also be used to begin to phase out defined benefit plans, but there is some movement on that issue in the bill as well.

Polling shows that while voters strongly feel they should have the right to approve pension bonds, a majority would approve this particular deal, especially when it is explained that City employees made benefits concessions in exchange for the cash infusion which will be made from the bonds.   

So, while I am philosophically opposed to issuing general obligation bonds without voter approval, I do not see any great harm if Turner issues the pension bonds before the effective date.  And if the House ends up adopting the Senate bill by a two-thirds majority, this loophole will not be available and a vote will be required.  Given the progress we have made on pensions generally in this new bill, if the bond proposition is submitted to voters, I will support it.  

Unfortunately, it looks like Houstonians will be the only municipal residents in Texas with the right to approve pension bonds.  A bill authored by Paul Bettencourt to requiring a vote on pension bonds statewide easily passed the Senate but appears to be going nowhere in the House.

* Some lawyers, including yours truly, think the AG’s office got it wrong on not requiring a vote on pension bonds in their initial review.  The AG concluded that Govt Code §1251 (requiring a vote on GO bonds) and Local Gov’t Code §1.07 were in conflict and that therefore the savings clause in §1.07 controlled.  However, a careful reading of the two sections suggests the two provisions are not in conflict.  In that case, the voting requirement of §1251 should control.  Hopefully, Gen. Paxton will take another look at this issue.

A very sweet tweet from Tags:

Brian McTaggart‏Verified account@brianmctaggart 10h10 hours ago

Tonight was the Astros; Major League-best 12th comeback win of the season

It was nice being there last night as we came back from a 5-zip deficit and Marwin hit a grand salami.

We lead MLB with a 18-9 record of course.

Dollar Dogs tonight!

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