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TPPF statement on the launch of the federal health care exchanges

AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation issued the following statement regarding the launch of the 36 federal health insurance exchanges operated by the federal government:

“Today, the ObamaCare Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) opens to the public against popular opinion and fiscal practicality,” said Arlene Wohlgemuth, Executive Director and Director for the Center for Health Care Policy. “Last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released data from 36 federal health insurance exchanges that confirms what the Texas Public Policy Foundation has long argued: health care premiums for plans offered on the federal exchange are significantly higher than pre-ObamaCare costs.”

According to John Davidson, analyst for the Center for Health Care Policy, rising health care costs are a particular concern for young people seeking coverage on the exchange.

“According to Health and Human Service’s data, the average cost of a catastrophic plan for a 27-year-old in Texas will be $153 a month on the federal exchange. Compare that to an average of the three cheapest catastrophic plans currently available to that same 27-year-old in Austin, which is $59 a month, that’s a 158 percent increase. Premiums won’t go up for everyone seeking insurance on the exchange because of federal subsidies that will offset higher costs. However, rates will go up for most young people who earn more than $30,000

a year. The bottom line is that ObamaCare will make health insurance less affordable for most Americans at a time when many people are struggling financially,” said Davidson.


The Texas Public Policy Foundation has published a comparison of average catastrophic plans in Texas pre-ObamaCare and post-ObamaCare that can be found on

Poll: Abbott Leads Davis by 8 Points

Republican Greg Abbott is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup for Texas governor, but it’s a statistical dead heat among women, according to a Texas Lyceum Poll of registered voters released Wednesday.

Abbott, the attorney general, leads Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, 29 percent to 21 percent in the poll, with a whopping 50 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.47 percentage points.

Abbott’s lead shrinks to 2 points, within the margin of error, when only women are counted. In that slice of the electorate, Abbott had 25 percent and Davis was at 23 percent, with 51 percent undecided.

Davis, who is expected to announce her campaign for governor on Thursday, leads Abbott 36 percent to 10 percent among black voters and 22 percent to 18 percent among Hispanic voters in the poll. Abbott has a lopsided lead over Davis among independents — 18 percent to 8 percent — but in that group, 74 percent are undecided.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he found the gender gap “intriguing.” Given the fact that white Texans make up two-thirds of the electorate and routinely give 70 percent or more of their votes to Republicans, Davis needs to peel off white suburban women from Abbott if she has any hope of winning.

He said Democrats in the last several elections have generally lost statewide races by 12 to 16 percentage points in Texas, so she’s ahead of the game at this point. But with so many people undecided, Jillson said Davis is vulnerable to a negative ad campaign that would define her before she can define herself. It doesn’t help that her opponent has the biggest war chest in Texas politics.

“How does Davis break even with Abbott among the 50 percent who don’t know, when he’s got $22 million and she’s got $1 million?” Jillson said. “The odds are pretty long.”

Abbott0898right_jpg_312x1000_q100photo by: Bob Daemmrich

Attorney General Greg Abbott announces his bid for Texas governor at a San Antonio rally on July 14, 2013.

A poll over the summer, conducted by Public Policy Polling, also had Abbott leading by 8 points.

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Libertarian Kathie Glass Announces Bid for Governor

Kathie_Glass_jpg_312x1000_q100Saying that the current federal government shutdown and tensions between Republicans and Democrats have made Texans ready for a change in leadership, Libertarian Kathie Glass on Wednesday officially announced her candidacy in the 2014 governor’s race.

“We’re going to be active in every aspect of this race,” said Glass, a Houston lawyer who also ran for governor in 2010. “We are getting out there a lot sooner.”

Glass said she plans to visit every county in Texas during her campaign and will talk to Texans about their frustrations with the current state of affairs.

“This shutdown is just a glimpse of what might happen,” Glass said at her Austin news conference, at which several other Texas Libertarian hopefuls also announced their candidacies. “Voters know that what they want they are not going to get from the two other parties, so we are looking forward to offering them this alternative from the Libertarian Party.”

Glass said her campaign would focus on the idea of nullification, a legal theory that a state can invalidate federal laws it finds unconstitutional. She said that if she doesn’t win, she hopes her election will instill that idea into the public and the winning candidate.

“I want to make nullification a household-known concept,” Glass said. “This is our way out of this federal overreach.”

She said she would nullify the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and federal regulations on companies that lead them to ship jobs overseas to nations with laxer regulations.

“In the current environment, if we keep doing what we have always done, voting within the two-party system, we won’t be able to keep what we have got,” Glass said. “We have got to chart a new course.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced his campaign for governor in July. He faces former Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken in the GOP primary. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is expected to announce her candidacy Thursday. Glass said she was not aware of any Libertarian challengers.

Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said he did not think Glass’ run would have a decisive impact.

“Libertarians regularly run candidates, so they will get a small percentage of the vote, but I don’t see it affecting the gubernatorial race,” Munisteri said.

Glass received 2.2 percent of the vote in her 2010 run.

Her husband, Tom Glass, the vice chairman of the Texas Libertarian Party, announced at Wednesday’s news conference that he will be running for attorney general in 2014.

He said he is running to battle unnecessary restrictions from the federal government.

“I will use the force of the office to stop unconstitutional federal acts in Texas,” Glass said, citing Obamacare, privacy laws, prison regulations and spending.

Republicans Dan Branch, a state representative from Dallas; Ken Paxton, a state senator from McKinney; and Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, are also running to succeed Abbott as attorney general.

Other Libertarians who announced their candidacies Wednesday include journalist Brandon de Hoyos and Allen businessman Ed Kless, who are running for lieutenant governor; Lago Vista City Council member Ed Tidwell, who’s running for land commissioner; rancher Rocky Palmquist, who’s seeking to become agriculture commissioner; and Austin businessman Mark Miller, who’s running for railroad commissioner.

Texas Libertarians wishing to run for statewide office in the 2014 election must file with the party by Dec. 9 and receive a majority vote at the party’s state convention in April.

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Tommy Williams to Leave Texas Senate

State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is resigning from the Texas Senate, he told his staff Wednesday afternoon.

Separately, Williams has been approached about a government relations position within the Texas A&M University System, sources with knowledge of the discussions told The Texas Tribune.

Williams, a Texas A&M University alumnus, has served in the state Senate since 2003. Prior to that, he spent five years in the Texas House.

Williams is the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and led budget negotiations in the Legislature’s upper chamber. He also serves on the State Affairs, Administration and Open Government committees.

Williams4878CMS_jpg_312x1000_q100State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, during a state budget debate on March 20, 2013.

Outside of the Capitol, Williams, a CPA, has served as president of Woodforest Financial Services, an affiliate of Woodforest National Bank. He briefly considered running for comptroller earlier this year.

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TribuneFest: A Conversation with Three AG Candidates

Full video of Reeve Hamilton’s sit-down with three candidates for Texas Attorney General — state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas; state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; and Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman — at the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival.

Dozens crowd the freeway to celebrate 249 expansion

Area officials grabbed shovels and moved dirt in celebration of the official start of the Tomball Tollway project. Pictured are Tomball Chamber President Bruce Hilligeist, State Senator Tommy Williams, Tomball Mayor Gretchen Fagan, State Representative Allen Fletcher, Congressman Michael McCaul, Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal. Tribune Photo/Caleb Harris

For those casually traveling on SH 249 Sept. 25, it must have been a curious site.

Horses, riders, flags, heavy equipment, a large tent and dozens of people lined up near Hirschfield Road and 249, to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the Tomball Tollway. The groundbreaking was held by the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a great day for Tomball,” said Congressman Michael McCaul. “This will relieve so much congestion.”

The long awaited project is finally coming to fruition, as the Harris County Toll Road Authority has awarded a contract to Webber LLC. The contract will cover a nearly 4-mile segment of the project from Spring Cypress Road to south of Willow Creek. A second segment from there to Alice Road will be given the go-ahead sometime in October. Another segment from FM 2920 to FM 1774 is scheduled for design in 2015, while the SH 249 project from FM 1774 to Navasota has recently been given state approval.

The project is a culmination of a rare cooperative effort between multiple government entities.

“So many people had a part in this,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Craig Doyal. “I am extremely excited.”

Doyal went on to tell those gathered an anecdote in cooperation.

“We had an 8-and-a-half by 11 map of 249 and (Harris County) Commissioner Jack Cagle wrote across it ‘I want this to happen’ and signed it,” said Doyal. “I grabbed a pen and wrote ‘me too’.”

State Representative Allen Fletcher said the groundbreaking is the peak of a 10-year effort that he has been a part of.

“I am so excited to see this project start,” he said. “10 years ago I was a member of the Tomball chamber and I became the head of the mobility and transportation committee. I started trying to get this project worked on back then.”

Fletcher said that early in his legislative career that they got $12 million of ‘use it or lose it’ dollars from TxDOT to build the bypass area. He said that was an important step because it gave them something to work on.

“This wasn’t even on the 30-year plan,” Fletcher said of the 249 route to Navasota. “In just a few years they moved the 290 expansion up 18 years, added the 249 project which wasn’t even on it and the Grand Parkway segment. All of that is going to play a huge role in mobility for this region.”

McCaul agreed.

“This is the fastest growing area in the state of Texas and with that kind of growth we need the infrastructure to handle it,” he said.

Magnolia City Administrator Paul Mendes echoed all of the speakers sentiments about…Continued here:

U.S. Citizenship Renounced: The Consequences of Bad Tax Policy

When a quartet of Congressional Democrats proposed to target offshore tax abuses in October 2009, they promised an aggressive new approach to cracking down on tax evaders that would bring billions of dollars into the U.S. Treasury.

“These tax evaders cost our country tens of billions of dollars every year in unpaid taxes, and honest, law-abiding taxpayers pay the price,” said Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “Not only is this practice fundamentally unfair, this is money that could only be used in any number of important areas, such as reducing our federal deficits.”

But in reality, that proposal—the “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act” (FATCA), signed into law by President Obama in 2010—is inadvertently making life more complicated for any number of honest, law-abiding U.S. citizens living and working overseas by imposing onerous reporting on both financial institutions and taxpayers.

“It’s a monstrosity,” Steven R. Horton, a Paris-based tax accountant who works with expatriates, says of the law’s reporting requirements in the New York Times. “It compels every taxpayer to try to find a way that they’re guilty of some kind of omission.”

And in response, many of those U.S. citizens are jumping ship.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that based upon a review of Treasury Department quarterly data, record numbers of Americans are renouncing their citizenship. In the first six months of 2013, a total of 1,809 Americans had renounced their citizenship.

While the raw numbers may be relatively small (there are an estimated 6 to 7 million American citizens living and working outside the United States), the trend has shown dramatic growth in recent years. In 2008, for example, only 235 Americans renounced their citizenship in the entire year.

Experts attribute the explosion in renunciations to FATCA and a complex U.S. tax regime that’s is making financial matters more difficult for expatriate Americans, and forcing many to make a decision they never thought they’d have to face: whether or not to remain an American citizen.

The Trouble with FATCA

Specifically, FATCA requires that foreign financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies and investment firms, hand over information on American account holders to…Continued here:

Sen. Kel Seliger says there are two things every Texan can do for water: conserve, vote yes for Prop 6 Read more: Sen. Kel Seliger says there are two things every Texan can do for water: conserve, vote yes for Prop 6

In West Texas, expect a 27 percent increase in water demand over the next 40 years.

By Kel Seliger

– Ninety-seven percent of the state is currently still in a drought.

– State reservoirs are only 66 percent full.

– Groundwater supplies nearly 60 percent of the water needs in Texas.

I am not telling the people of West Texas anything they do not already know. In fact, the Texas Panhandle is almost entirely still classified as exceptional drought conditions, and in the high plains, reservoir storage is below 10 percent. Water withdrawals from Lake Meredith have all but ceased. In Midland, water is being trucked in to fill swimming pools for summer fun. Nowhere in Texas are people more acutely aware of water use and water shortage then we are in Senate District 31.

4f724911736a5.preview-300Tim Fischer. Water is such an integral part of our lives that I talk about it on a daily basis. Ours is an agricultural and oil and gas based economy, both of which require water to achieve maximum yield and success. My wife does not let me talk about water at dinner parties anymore; I am too passionate about the issue and apparently aquifer storage and recharge does not make for the most relaxed conversation. Fair enough. But in light of Proposition 6 on the Nov. 5 ballot, I would be remiss not to make a case for its passage.

Prop. 6 is the constitutional amendment that creates the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIF) to assist in the financing of priority water projects and ensure the availability of adequate water resources. Texas plans for future water needs with a 50-year window. The state does this through the State Water Plan, which is compiled by the Texas Water Development Board through locally established regional water planning areas. Locals have pinpointed specific water projects to help ensure supply and demand are met, and the Legislature has identified money to fund these projects, but the voters of Texas must first approve the creation of the SWIF. This is where your support for Prop. 6 is critical. If it fails to pass then money for these future water infrastructure projects will simply not be available.

Secondly, we must continue to conserve. The 2011 drought set a new record for the worst single-year drought in history, and most of the state has yet to recover, so while we build new water infrastructure we must also use less water. Texas Water Smart, a public-private effort involving elected leaders, trade associations and businesses, has developed a program to educate businesses and families about how they can take simple steps to conserve water during this current time of drought, and to meet the water needs of our growing population. Conservation tips can be found on their website at and include
Read more: Sen. Kel Seliger says there are two things every Texan can do for water: conserve, vote yes for Prop 6 – Opinion
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Editorial: Bloated Texas Constitution needs full revision

So what are your plans for Nov. 5? It’s a Tuesday, so no football on TV. Run the kids to school, go to work. Maybe Domino’s for dinner, if your spouse’s starvation diet hasn’t killed you by then.

Wait, why do we ask?

Well, it’s also Election Day in Texas. As long as you’ve registered by Oct. 7, you can join dozens of Texans in exercising your civic franchise on local issues and, of course, amendments to our Texas Constitution.

Our state has many things going for it, but our constitution probably isn’t one. Mostly, it’s a relic of a bitter, bygone era after the Civil War and Reconstruction left Texans in ill humor when it came to trusting state leaders.

The solution was a constitution that takes power from the elected and gives it to the electorate. That may sound well and good, but in Texas, voters must return to the polls every two years, usually the November after a Legislature, to ratify or reject many issues that barely register on statewide public radar.

Turnout is typically less than 10 percent — often far less. Does an entire state need to weigh in on whether El Paso County can tax itself to create a parks district (2011)? Important, perhaps, in El Paso County, but the other 253 have their own situations.

This year, every Texas voter can help decide whether to repeal a constitutional provision on creating a hospital district in Hidalgo County. Again, no small issue there, but elsewhere? Still, it’s on the list as Proposition 8 among nine amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution — which has been amended 27 times — the Texas Constitution functions as a limiting document. With no equivalent of the “necessary and proper clause,” our state’s document has grown like kudzu. It may not be the longest in America, but it’s a contender (Alabama and California are even worse).

After Nov. 5, Texas voters will have weighed in on more than 660 amendments, many of the intensely local or fabulously obscure variety. To date, about 73 percent have been approved.

This editorial board will research and dutifully recommend outcomes…Continued here:

8 Things To Know About A Government Shutdown

In seven days, the federal government runs out of money.

While the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday that keeps the government funded through Dec. 15, the measure also defunded President Obama’s signature health care law — which means it has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.

If a budget resolution doesn’t hit President Obama’s desk before Oct. 1, that’s a big problem: The government will be forced to close its doors.

With that prospect looming, here are eight things you should know about the possible shutdown:

It won’t be the first time

Since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976, the U.S. government has shut down 17 times. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan each dealt with six shutdowns during their terms in office, lasting anywhere from one day to 2 1/2 weeks.

The last actual shutdown came in 1996 — though the government came close during budget negotiations in 2011.

The last shutdown lasted three weeks

The three-week shutdown that lasted from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, ranks as the longest in U.S. history. As a result, about 284,000 federal workers were furloughed, and around 475,000 essential employees went without a paycheck, although they were eventually reimbursed.

They weren’t the only ones inconvenienced. Some benefits for military veterans were delayed, and cleanup at more than 600 toxic waste sites was stopped. The government also shut down for six days in mid-November 1995, initially resulting in the furlough of 800,000 federal employees. The Congressional Research Service reported the shutdowns cost taxpayers a combined $1.4 billion.

Only the “essentials”

Only federal employees deemed “essential” would continue to come to work during a shutdown. Employees who qualify as essential include those involved in national security, protecting life and property and providing benefit payments.

That means members of the military, border control agents, air traffic controllers, the FBI and the TSA are among those who would remain on duty. The president and members of Congress are also exempt from furlough and must decide which of their respective staff members to keep around during a shutdown.

The checks are in the mail

Even in the event of a shutdown, Social Security beneficiaries will still find their checks in their mailboxes and doctors and hospitals will receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. However, if the government does not resolve the budget situation by Nov. 1, those…Continued here: