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Cracks in the armor?

Two stories today highlight issues that I believe will be long-term problems for the GOP here in Texas. First off is this one in which a state House subcommittee rejected a bill that would have imposed a lower cap on property tax appraisals.

The bill replaced a similar bill authored by state Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, that would have lowered the cap to 5 percent on homestead appraisals only. [State Rep. Dwayne] Bohac’s bill lowered or set a cap on homestead, commercial and apartment property.

Currently, property appraisals on homesteads and apartments can increase by as much as 10 percent each year. There is no cap on businesses.

Bohac is a Republican, also from Houston. The key vote on the House committee was cast by another Republican, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg of Wylie. Laubenberg had no comment on her rather shocking vote, which is a real departure from the lockstep nature of House Republicans.

The problem here for the GOP is that the supporters of this measure are, shall we say, rather zealous about it:

Bohac and others believe that confrontational and vitriolic criticism from supporters of Wong’s bill offended some committee members at a March 13 hearing.

“There were hurt feelings, and it was hard for some on this committee to overcome those hurt feelings,” Bohac said, “and that’s a shame, because taxpayers lose because they couldn’t get over personal issues.”

About 100 Houstonians stormed out of the March 13 hearing after waiting seven hours to testify. Some in the group shouted down committee Chairman Fred Hill, R-Richardson, and accused the committee of siding with lobbyists and business interests.

At the hearing, Houston radio talk show host Dan Patrick likened committee members to “money changers” and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt said the county was on the verge of a tax revolt.

“When public officials will do nothing to help ease the tax burden of citizens that are being overtaxed, then they better be ready for protest, because if they thought that was a protest, they haven’t seen anything yet,” Patrick said Monday.

[…]

“She does not deserve to be seated in office if she is going to put her personal feelings in front of what is in the best interest of Texas,” Patrick said of Laubenberg. “She should be ashamed of herself.”

Bettencourt believes the assertion that feelings were hurt was a smoke screen. He said Laubenberg’s questions on other legislation reflect a basic philosophical difference on tax relief.

He said he cannot explain why she would not follow the lead of House Speaker Tom Craddick, her committee chairman or the Republican Party on tax relief.

“It’s an emotional vote against your core principles, what your party believes in. It’s a very strong vote against your base,” Bettencourt said. “It would be a grave mistake for anyone to go and vote against their core beliefs.

“She’s a lightning rod now for tax relief.”

I commented on this story back in March when Patrick and Bettencourt threw their temper tantrums. These guys brook no compromise, can’t abide any principles that differ from their own, and will probably work to unseat Rep. Laubenberg in the next election; whether it’s to a Republican who’ll do their bidding more reliably or a Democrat who won’t do it at all likely won’t matter to them. With friends like these, and all that.

What makes this even more amusing is the pitchfork brigade’s charge that the House committee was under the spell of “lobbyists” and “business interests”. Well, duh! This is the Texas GOP we’re talking about! Of course, one would normally expect “lobbyists” and “business interests” to favor a property tax appraisal cap. After all, this bill would have imposed a cap on commercial property appraisals, so why wouldn’t business support it? Logic and rationality are not the strong suits here.

The other story features state GOP chair Sarah Weddington defending her party from charges that they’re heartless and uncaring, despite their relentless push for a budget that would deny health care and other services to thousands of sick, elderly, and other needy folks.

In a conference phone call with members of the State Republican Executive Committee, Weddington urged party leaders and grass-roots supporters to encourage Republican lawmakers to hang tough in the face of criticism from Democrats and many newspaper editorial writers.

She said Democrats, during the budgetary debate, have attempted to “make Republicans look like heartless, cruel, mean, ugly people who just want people to die, want people to be thrown out of nursing homes, and that is not the case.”

“The fact of the matter is that we want a new philosophy, a new policy toward spending that helps those that really need help, and they have no other options,” she added.

“We want to cease and desist helping those who have other options but choose to use government because it’s cheaper and it’s more convenient. You know, the Democrats want to create a government-funded middle class, and we’ve got to have the courage to take the hits so that we do what’s right by the people of Texas.”

I suppose these desperate folks didn’t get Weddington’s message. The AARP isn’t impressed, either, a notion that might normally make a political party think twice.

But never mind that. Let’s compare Weddington’s statement about how Democrats are making the Republicans look like a bunch of meanies with this statement from her second in command:

David Barton, the party’s vice chairman, added that it is important for Republican leaders to warn lawmakers not to “get bent out of shape over (allegations) you’re killing elderly people by starving them, or whatever.”

The Republicans here don’t need any assistance from Democrats on this. They do a fine enough job on their own. Sooner or later, that’s going to be a problem for them.

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6 Comments

  1. Smirking Chupacabra says:

    Dan Patrick? (not the ESPN guy), but DAN FRIEKIN’ PATRICK?!!

    I lived in Houston for a few years in the mid to late 1980s and I remember Dan as a truly terrible sports talk show host. There was only one opinion that mattered in the universe – his. He left the air just before I moved away (something about the station being sold, I think), and I thought the city’s airwaves had been cleansed ever so slightly. You have to remember that Stevens and Pruett were on KLOL at the time, so the airwaves were never clean! Seems I was incorrect about Dan.

    Well, if the article is any indication of how DP runs his talk show, I’m glad I haven’t heard it. We probably would be better off if he were hurling insults at Moochie Norris or Richard Hidalgo instead of being even remotely involved in politics.

  2. Yep, that Dan Patrick. If you want an update on his career, check out these two Houston Press articles.

  3. JimTXDem says:

    What amuses me most about the AARP story you linked is how the activists have co-opted the term “compassionate conservatism.”

    We’ve now gone full circle (remember when Dubya co-opted “no child left behind?”).

    Anyhow, the Republicans are too clever by half — when it comes to rhetoric.

    Their problem with finances is not that they are cruel, it’s that their clueless. Half of the GOP budget goes to cutting state taxes, half goes to cutting local taxes, and half goes to increasing services.

    Thanks for the link, by the way.

    ~ Jim D.

  4. JimTXDem says:

    What amuses me most about the AARP story you linked is how the activists have co-opted the term “compassionate conservatism.”

    We’ve now gone full circle (remember when Dubya co-opted “no child left behind?”).

    Anyhow, the Republicans are too clever by half — when it comes to rhetoric.

    Their problem with finances is not that they are cruel, it’s that their clueless. Half of the GOP budget goes to cutting state taxes, half goes to cutting local taxes, and half goes to increasing services.

    Thanks for the link, by the way.

    ~ Jim D.

  5. JimTXDem says:

    Not to mention the fact we are quickly reaching a breaking point with school finance, which may or may not be solved this session.

    Sorry about the double-post.

    :: cough ::

  6. Smirking Chupacabra says:

    OK, let me get this straight. After reading the Patrick articles you cited, it seems DanMan was … TOO CONSERVATIVE FOR CLEAR CHANNEL! Tell me the truth – he’s just flown right off the deep end, hasn’t he?

    Wow.

    Thanks for the links.