Fighting for Transparency & Fiscal Responsibility in Local Government

Kaufman’s Costly and Illegal Scandal – Part 2

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For Part 1, click HERE.

County Judge Bruce Wood led Kaufman County into a costly contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for traffic cameras. The contract resulted in illegal overreaches of authority in addition to costs over $180,000.

Traffic Cameras Were Unnecessary

Kaufman, like most other rural counties, has five law enforcement agencies to patrol its roads and enforce traffic laws. Each school zone is protected by local school police, city police, constables, deputy sheriffs, and the highway patrol. Not only was the ticketing contract with ATS unlawful, it would have added a redundant sixth layer of law enforcement.

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House Ballot Fraud Bill – HB184 vs. HB47

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The special session is nearing an end and the Governor’s call for increased penalties for mail in voter fraud has stalled in the House in the form of HB 184.

There is a lot of discussion, driven largely by our office, as to the differences between HB184 by Goldman and HB47 by Schofield. We are fighting FOR HB184;, let me tell you why.

First, let me back up and discuss something that happened during regular session. The TX Legislature passed a bill we now refer to as the “nursing home” bill. This  flew under the radar and was added at the last minute as an amendment. This bill opens up every nursing home in Texas to ballot harvesting. It creates an unfunded mandate on every county, and many, many other problematic details. The Democrat party has been bragging about getting this bill passed. One party official even bragged that the Dem party has already calculated this bill will get them nearly 300,000 additional harvested ballots. They did the math;, they wrote the bill;, they got it passed. THIS IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM. This week over 100 county election administrators signed a letter opposing this legislation.

The main difference between HB184 and HB47, both as amended, is that HB184 FULLY REPEALS the nursing home bill. Let me be clear – the “nursing home” bill is flawed at every level, it cannot be “fixed”, but  must be repealed. HB47 naively attempts to patch the “nursing home” bill. This is like trying to fix Obamacare. Repeal and Replace is the only viable choice. This difference alone is worth the fight.

Aside from that, HB184 differentiates itself from HB47 in several ways., I’ll list some of them here:

HB184 prohibits electronic signatures on applications and carrier envelopes. HB47 does not.

HB184 requires original copy of applications, no more faxed or emailed mail in applications. HB47 does not.

HB184 adds preservation of ballot materials including canceled ballots and a mandatory reporting to the AG’s office. This is vital to track and document fraud for the long term elimination of it. HB47 does not.

HB184 includes voter impersonation penalties for using a mail in ballot., HB47 does not.

HB184 clarifies that the two signatures on the application and carrier envelope must both be that of the voter, not just match. HB47 does not.

HB184 adds liability to ballot board members who accept invalid signatures. HB47 does not.

HB184 adds new wording to Sec 276.013 of the election code which defines voter fraud more clearly and gives law enforcement the tools they need to go after violators

HB184 simply covers more detail and stitches up the existing problems in a more solid manner. This is largely due to the fact that HB184 was written by a team: from the AG’s office, to Rep. Goldman’s office, Governor’s office, Sen. Hancock’s office and others. HB47 has 9 sponsors, while HB184 has 81 Authors and Co-Authors. 81!

HB184 is the better bill. The clock is running out.

 

 

Kaufman’s Costly and Illegal Scandal – Part 1

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Following the public pushback over red light cameras across Texas, camera companies, such as American Traffic Solutions (ATS), have turned their attention to counties, rather than cities. Shockingly, several counties engaged these firms in clear violation of state law.

The problem with ATS’s strategy was that the governments they sought to engage do not have the authority to issue civil penalties to enforce local ordinances. Cities are given that authority in the Local Government Code (LGC); that power does not extend to counties. Every civil citation issued to local residents by Kaufman County under the ATS contract was illegal. (LGC 54.012 & 54.044)

ATS targeted rural counties such as Kaufman, Smith, and Hays, appealing to money-hungry County Judges who would support traffic-camera contracts designed to help bolster their revenue. As is often the case in local government, they relied upon complicit District Attorneys and incompetent county lawyers to rubber stamp unlawful contracts.

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Where is the Republican Caucus Leadership?

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The Texas Senate is calm. After all, they’ve finished their work, for now.

The Texas Senate has passed legislation relating to 18 of the 20 priorities called for by Abbott. The Texas House, on the other hand, has passed 2.

The House is a hot mess. It’s difficult to overstate the circus, unless you’ve been in Austin to witness the clown-show firsthand. Other than the Freedom Caucus members, state representatives are irrationally stressed. This paranoia is driven largely by the fact that no one appears to be in charge. There is no plan, which would normally emanate from the Speaker’s team.

House Speaker Joe Straus has effectively lost control of the chamber.

Last week we saw Rep. Tony Tinderholt call points of order, only to see Speaker Straus hide his right hand in his pocket as it shook uncontrollably, day after day. Joe is scared.

The conservatives disdain Joe, the moderates are mad at him for putting them in this special session conundrum. It’s a lose-lose situation. The democrats are mad because he doesn’t follow the rules and the special session gives them no place to hide their radical and unpopular agenda to create, raise, and increase taxes. Everyone is mad at Joe.

This should be a unique time for the Republican Caucus to shine…but it cannot.

Or, perhaps it will not. Much like the House itself, the Republican Caucus has no real leadership. State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) has fully embraced Obama’s mantra of “leading from behind.” Caucus members are looking for leadership, but they selected an empty suit for that position. Tan is incapable of leading, except when corporate handouts are at stake—he’s all but proven as much to capitol onlookers.

Last week, without input from the caucus, Tan published talking points for members to use to reassure their constituents. Members were simply embarrassed by these blatantly false talking points. I’ve attached them to this article below.

Tan has chosen to fully embraced Straus’ tactic of blaming the rules, when convenient, while talking out of both sides of his mouth. In one sentence he brags about filing 209 bills, while following up with complaints the special session and calendar don’t give them enough time to act, because the House has so many more members than the Senate.

The truth is simple: Tan and Joe will always come up with ways to “get things done” when asked by the lobby, whether it’s the Texas Medical Association or the Texas Municipal League. When pressed by their taxpaying constituents, they’ll come up with little more than excuses.

Tan has chosen to demonstrate no leadership in regards to advancing popular priorities called for by Republicans. Tan needs to step aside, and let the caucus appoint new leadership.

Tan and Joe share a lot in common. Hopefully they will share a loss in March.

Drivers Beware: New Cameras Spreading in Texas

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Texans do not want their tax dollars paying for traffic cameras that are a revenue stream disguised as a public safety measure. While state lawmakers have failed to act, citizens across Texas are fighting to ban red light cameras, and winning.

Red-light cameras are voted out in almost every city that puts them on the ballot. A statewide ban passed in the Texas Senate, but stalled in the House, and now thousands of citizens have signed a petition, recently delivered to Governor Abbott, to add a state-wide ban to the Governor’s Special Session call.

Meanwhile, cities are fighting to hold onto their cash-cow cameras. In recent years, even counties have tried to get into the game, which they don’t have the legal authority to do. With red-light cameras on the chopping block, the new ploy is cameras set to catch cars speeding in school zones and passing school buses while the stop arm is deployed.

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