Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is it Murphy's Law to Support Joe Strauss?

"If you aren't willing to fight for what you believe, do not cry about what you will lose."
I have no idea who this quote is from, but I love it.  I think it's fitting of the upcoming Speaker's race for the Texas House.  What do I mean?  I mean that if you aren't willing to fight for a new, conservative Speaker of the House, then don't cry about what you will lose.  What will we lose?  The conservative stronghold that we have maintained here in Texas, despite the current speaker's liberal influence.

Let's introduce the players, shall we?  We have incumbent Joe Strauss, with known ties to Democrats and a history of stalling conservative legislation.  We now thankfully also have Scott Turner, a staunch conservative who has vowed to his family and his supporters to see this race through to the bitter end.   Not only that, he has promised to make the vote for speaker an 'on the record' vote for all of the state representatives so that their constituents can see.  No more closed door, back room deals on Speaker of the House.

This race also has a history of pitting conservative activists against each other about whether or not to even 'pick this fight'.  Some say it's not worth the time and energy to help one candidate for speaker over another.  Some say that it doesn't matter who the speaker is, followed by those who say that we're wasting our time because our voice won't be heard with our representatives on this issue.  I used to be in one or a few of those camps, but I've changed my mind, and I hope after reading this, you might decide to get involved, too.

What I hear you saying is, how can we make a difference in this particular race, seeing as how it's perceived as such inside baseball, if you will.  Here's my answer: talk to your representatives.  Call their offices and chat with them about making Scott Turner their choice for Speaker.  Send them a note via e-mail or snail mail asking them to vote for Scott Turner.  Better yet, find out when they might be having a town hall meeting and show up to let them know how important their choice is for Speaker and how much you would like for them to vote for Scott Turner.  

Not being one to ask others to do something I wouldn't do, I thought I'd start us off with a town hall that one of the state representatives was holding here in Houston, Texas.  State representative Jim Murphy hosted a town hall this past weekend to a crowd of about seventy-five people.  He took us through the past session and what he sees on the horizon for the upcoming 84th legislative session, but that's another blog for another day.

Lo and behold, it was time for the question and answer session.  Oooh, pick me!  Pick me!  I raised my hand and after a few questions, he got to me.  With video camera rolling, I asked him about the speaker's race.  I wanted to know if I could get a commitment from him on whether or not he would be supporting Scott Turner for Speaker of the House.  He did the typical political song and dance and never really committed to make a decision.  You can watch the video here.  

So, that wasn't a total loss.  This just proves my point that we need to keep the pressure on our representatives to ensure that Scott Turner is elected our new Speaker of the House.  As Ronald Reagan once said, "When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Turner vs. Strauss: Who Will Emerge Victorious?

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."  -Teddy Roosevelt 

This quote provides an appropriate introduction to the beginning of the Texas House Speaker's race; Scott Turner vs. Joe Strauss, a race that's actually been a long time coming.  This speaker's race is one with a REAL flesh and blood opponent to Strauss, not a ghost of a man or men who plan to withdraw at the last moment so that we the people of Texas feel that there has been some valiant effort put forth on the part of the so called opponent.  A tactic that's been tried before so as to keep the status quo so that the same house speaker remains in place.

Who may make it a different race this time, you ask?  Scott Turner, that's who.  You're saying, who?  SCOTT TURNER!  A little background on Scott from his website, "Representative Scott Turner, a businessman, national motivational speaker and former NFL player, was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2012.  He represents House District 33 which encompasses all of Rockwall County and portions of Collin County in North Texas."

The mood is different with this speakers race, and I'll tell you why.  As of the most recent Texas Republican Convention held in June, the delegates adopted a new party platform with this change under the section of "Election Integrity" as it pertains to the Speaker of the House Race: "We support an amendment to the Texas Constitution to make the Texas Speaker of the House a statewide election."  Translation: the activists in Texas have had enough of Speaker Strauss and his games when it comes to passing any conservative legislation AND his bullying tactics when it comes to committee chair selections.

Not only has this gained attention from news and media outlets statewide, it's gaining national attention.  Freedomworks, led by President Matt Kibbe have decided it's time to get involved.  From their announcement of their endorsement of Scott for Speaker of the House, "When I met Scott last month he blew me away with his passion for conservative principles, and with his passion for the state of Texas. I don't say this lightly - Scott is the real deal.  But  it’s his leadership that impresses me most. Scott is the type of guy that will bring Texas together. He will unite conservatives against Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in Texas, and keep this state free. Scott will keep Texas red!"-Matt Kibbe  Freedomworks even has a webpage set up for activists to visit and take action at standwithturner.com.

After all, that's the point, right?  Texas is a conservative state and has been a conservative state for quite a while and as long as we keep electing conservatives to represent us, we will remain a 'red' state.  However, there are groups out there, like Battleground Texas and others who aren't content to let Texas go to the conservatives who have called it home for the past few decades.  That's one of the many reasons why this race for Speaker is so important.   Joe Strauss has known ties to Democrats.  How else can you explain why he was elected Speaker by 65 Democrats and only 11 Republicans?

Texas is one of the last bastions of conservatism and the Democrats know this.  They are coming after us hard and fast and unless we hold the line by keeping conservatives elected to the state legislature AND make sure we only pass conservative legislation, the Democrats will have their way here.  To do both of those things, we have to crown a new Speaker.  The Speaker has to be someone who isn't going to kill legislation by letting it die in Calendars committee by putting if off to a later date or who isn't going to fall back on the good ole boy system of appointing his buddies, or should I say, cronies to powerful committee positions.  Scott Turner is that man.  He is a man of integrity, he stands on his own; he doesn't owe anyone anything. Like the "man in the arena", he'll strive valiantly for a greater Texas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Katy ISD: Got Debt?

There are many issues that we encounter and deal with as a community on a local, city, state, and a national level.  Some are more controversial than others, obviously.  There is one issue that can tear apart an education community or school district faster than any of these other issues; a school bond proposal.  Want to make it even more divisive?  Throw in a new football stadium proposal in the bond proposal.  Look. Out.

The Katy ISD bond is no different.  And sadly, it's a statewide epidemic.

However, even the folks that support the bond are coming up short on their logic, seemingly failing to consider what the passage of this bond would do to the local and state economies.  The debt of Texas' cities is comparable to California's cities, even to that of bankrupt Detroit.  Even Breitbart has picked up on it in this article titled, Texas Cities Should Learn from Bankrupt, Spendthrift Detroit.  Jess Fields said, "Texans must work to ensure that our localities do not rack up enormous debt and waste money on pet projects we cannot afford. Taxpayers should demand that local governments spend money on priorities, like good public safety and sound infrastructure."

On the other side, the Katy LiberTea group led the fight in 2013 and helped defeat an earlier bond.  Their desire to see the bond voted down is no different this time around.  Cyndi Lawrence, president of Katy LiberTea has this to say about the state of affairs in the Katy Independent School District: "We acknowledge the fact that Katy ISD is a highly desired community. We need to look at a package that addresses classroom space for our kids and that is fiscally responsible. This community has expanded so much because it is a great area to live, but we want it to remain that way. We do not want our community to be in such a large amount of debt.  This bond reminds me of Bills that come through the U.S. House, the INTENTION is always good, but somehow tons of pork gets added and then the intention of the Bill ends up lost.  We need to be more transparent and fiscally responsible when preparing a bond.  There has been way to much “fluff” money added to this current bond package. This bond should only be addressing growth while respecting the community’s hard earned tax payer dollars. According to debt at a glance, for school districts of similar size in Texas, Katy ISD ranks the 5th highest in debt with the amount of $1,234,844,928.  The cost per student is $19,172."

Cyndi continues: "The community has already voted down the 2013 $99,000,000 bond because most felt like the school district was proposing to spend too much money on things that are not necessities. Here we are a year later, and not only did they NOT listen to the community’s concerns, but they added 700 MILLION more dollars to the bond and MORE “fluff.” This is not representative of what the community wants and what is best for our children. They need to consider our concerns and address the growth needs in a fiscally responsible manner. Our community and our children will be paying this debt off for years to come."

Most people think that conservative groups are always railing against any sort of bond referendum or proposal.  That's simply not true!  To back that up, I thought it would be interesting  to include some quotes from some folks who would like to remain anonymous.  The first person comments concerning the stadium that has been injected into the bond:
"Why is the stadium being forced into a bond that is primarily for education and facilities pertaining to education? Why is it not on its own ticket?"
"The stadium did not make the vote last year and there has been a whole year to prepare for a better solution. Why has Katy ISD not researched and secured corporate sponsors, stadium naming rights, and etc… They could sell seat options, raise ticket prices, and paid parking. There are many ways that this could have been sold to the voters without shoving it down our throats in a bond that includes mass much needed educational components. That's just dirty and unethical no matter what side your on."
"Sometimes you have to pay to play!"
Some people are not even talking about the stadium.  Here's one taxpayer who is concerned about whether or not Katy ISD already has the money on hand to spend without passing the bond: 
"On the KISD Bond issue, I have a house that last year was valued at $92,500 - KISD taxes $1415. This year the same house value was upped to $149,000 - KISD taxes $2279. This appears to me to be a little more than $10-$20 per year. And it's a rental with no exemptions. So, if my KISD taxes are going up $864 per year, I guess that I am accounting for the $10 increase for 86 houses. They should not need any bonds approved inasmuch as the increase in valuations more than makes up for the bonds they want to issue."
Here's more from another concerned citizen about the tax rate:
"KISD tax rate is 1.5266% (1.1266 M&O and 0.400 I&S). This is before the planned tax rate increase in the proposed bond. This current rate is already higher than over 93% of all other school districts in TX and even higher than CFISD. Not sure how that is possible with the behemoth of a Berry Center cost already included in CFISD M&O and I&S rates. Good news is it is still lower than Allen ISD but they already have their 60MM stadium. Well it's really even more than the 60MM when you add the costs they are currently incurring to repair all the cracked concrete in it."

Unfortunately, as is always the case with school bond debates, those presenting rationale, financial reasons to oppose the bond will be labeled “anti-children.” 
These are real concerns from real people.  They are legitimate concerns, too.  None that can just be explained away by the pro-bond side as 'ignorant' or uneducated.  If you live in Katy ISD, please consider a 'no' vote on this bond.  It's time that we stop loving our children to debt. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Politics and Christianity: Can the Two Work Together?

Let me ask you your opinion on something: should Christians be involved in politics?  Moreover, should Christians vote?  There are all kinds of ethnic and religious groups involved in politics, but what about Christians?  Well, I'm a Christian and I see nothing wrong with it.  I've heard other opinions about whether Christians should be involved, often to the contrary.  I have to wonder though, what would those who disagree suggest that we do?

I personally feel that we are co-workers with Christ.  For example, if you need a job, you can certainly pray for a job, yes?  However, you need to submit resumes and make phone calls in order to obtain a job.  You need to put forth some effort on your part.  You can trust that God will help guide you to find the job that's right for you, but YOU have to do something in order to get the job.  Here's a little something that the Bible says about work: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Colossians 3:23

How about all the people that God used throughout the Bible to accomplish His work?  How about David and Goliath, one of my favorite stories.  What if David hadn't stepped up to defeat Goliath?  In that same vein, what if conservatives had stayed home and decided NOT to help elect Ted Cruz to win the U.S. Senate nomination against David Dewhurst?  I. Can't. Even.

Christians are involved and have been for a while in the pro-life movement.  I would have to say that there are definitely 'politics' involved there; shaping legislation and staging protests.  So, should Christians stop standing up for life?  Something else that Christians generally stand for is traditional marriage; marriage between one man and one woman. Let us not forget that often times, these are convictions the people feel in their heart that they should fight for.  So, should Christians then also stop standing up for traditional marriage? 

I don't feel that being a co-worker with God to find a job is any different than being a co-worker with God for influencing legislation or attempting to maintain our freedoms.  I can even use another example of a group headed up by a person who listened to the Lord direct his career path and how God has blessed him with many successes.  Ever heard of Liberty Institute?  A man by the name of Kelly Shackelford is the president and CEO of Liberty Institute.  They are a Christian ministry dedicated to providing legal assistance to those being discriminated against when it comes to their first amendment rights and the ability to freely express their faith.

From their website, "In 1972, Liberty Institute began as a small advocacy organization under a different name and advanced the cause of liberty, including religious liberty. In 1997, we added our legal division, once known as Liberty Legal Institute, and Kelly Shackelford became President and CEO. In 2009, we brought our policy and legal division together under one name—Liberty Institute.What began nearly 40 years ago has grown into an influential non-profit law firm, dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America. Liberty Institute is now the largest legal organization in America dedicated solely to defending and preserving religious liberty in America, with clients, attorneys, and donors all across the nation."  If you want to read more about this amazing organization, click on the link here.

To further drive home my point, I looked at the U.S. Pastors Council Website where they have an outline listed for a project called, "Every Christian Votes".  Here are some stats that are somewhat disturbing:
Every American Christian who is eligible to vote does so:
a) By one’s absence; Failing to vote and allowing elected officials to be chosen by those who do not share the same values,
b) Thoughtlessly; By voting out of ignorance, self-serving motivation, etc., or
c) By becoming informed; Studying candidates’ positions on key issues, praying and casting a knowledgeable vote for candidates who most closely conform to Biblical standards of character and on the vital issues of the day.

Here comes the disturbing part:
Most pastors would agree that options A and B are poor stewardship and have led to ungodly, unjust and corrupt leaders being chosen, resulting in unrighteous government. 
It is still an accepted statistic that less than one out of three churchgoing citizens vote in each election, a fact of which we should be ashamed.

Now, don't get me wrong, there has to be a balance of things.  We shouldn't put politics or political involvement before God and our faith.  Prayerfully considered political action is certainly acceptable, because if there's ever been a time for Christian influence needed in the halls of D.C., the Texas Capitol and our local municipalities, it's definitely NOW.  Don't hold back on letting your voices be heard.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Does God's Kindness Lead Us?

Kindness as defined by Webster's is  a state or quality of being kind; specifically beneficence, kind feeling; affection.

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things.  Now we know that God's judgement against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgement?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"-Romans 2:1-4

That was a mouthful, I realize.  I really just wanted to share that last sentence of the scripture, "..not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance."  It needed the whole verse to give you the context, I think.  I shared with you a scripture verse last week and it made my day to do that, so I'm doing it again.

I have been a Christian for about seventeen years now, but about eight years ago, I came across this scripture verse and it changed my point of view about a great many things.  I guess you could say, life and people in general.  When I came to Christ, there was a motivation to give my life to Christ; an urgency, if you will.  The pastor made such a compelling argument for my soul and others there, I just felt naturally compelled to go down to the altar and accept Christ.  I then began my journey into the Bible and learned as much as I could immediately.  Just like many other new believers and those others to come, I soaked up the word and loved spending time with those who had been Christians for many years and asked lots of questions.

We all have probably made the same mistake I did.  I assumed that most others had come to Christ in that same way; felt the need or urgency to give my life to the Lord.  Or that there was a conviction that they felt in their spirit to confess wrong doing and to get right with the Lord.   

After I read that scripture verse though, it changed my mind.  I came to the realization that not everyone has the same story of salvation.  I'm glad of that fact, to be honest.  We are all unique individuals, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of Christ.  I personally LOVE the fact that it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance.  So when we replace one of the words in the definition of, 'kindness' within the scripture verse, it makes even more sense; because of God's affection, we are led to repentance.  Let that sink in for a moment.

It also led me to another realization about people, like I mentioned. I think it gave me a greater understanding of what it means to extend grace.  Not everyone has the same likes and dislikes, and that's okay.  Not only that, but my way of doing things isn't the only way of doing things.  I think that is a hugely important thing for people to realize.  That doesn't mean I'm preaching tolerance here by any means.  Sin should still be called sin.  I think though, that grace helps us to be respectful of others' preferences and their life decisions they may make. 

I'm thankful that God fulfilled the law with his son Jesus and that we are now living under grace which defined is unmerited favor.  If there's just one take away from this blog or scripture verse, I pray that the words grace and kindness are two that you store up for yourselves this week.  Although we may feel a conviction in our spirit or a stirring in our souls, or desire that others would feel convicted to change, I pray that it is ultimately because God is kind and loving that we choose to give ourselves to Him.    

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come to Me Before You Go Back to School

Does it ever seem to you that God sort of gives you a scripture verse?  Something pops into your head and you immediately know that it was from God.  Well, that happens to me from time to time and I'm always so thankful when it does.  It happened to me again today and I wanted to share it with you to help others who might need this same verse.

We find this verse in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  I'm pretty sure that you've heard that verse before, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you look at each word or word phrase individually.

"Come to me".  That just shows us God's gentle nature.  It doesn't say, "Hey, you, get over here now!"  So many times we do that to our own children.  I pray the next time I find myself being tempted to do that, I'll call this scripture to mind.

How about the part that says, .."all you who are weary and burdened?"  I love that part, almost as much as Jesus giving us rest.  It doesn't say, "all you who are perfect and free from sin."  We would never get to come near Jesus if that were the case.  He created us to need him, to follow him and to trust him; for everything.  This also brought to my mind the verse in Romans 5:8 that says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Proves even more that we don't need to be perfect to approach the throne of God.  That we can lay our problems and our struggles at his feet and he will take care of them.

We live in a culture that doesn't always go to God first.  It's easy to get caught up in the 'world' and for us to become easy targets for Satan.  The devil is really good at planting seeds of doubt in our minds about everything that we should be trusting God for.  (I won't list them all because this blog would never end.) 

Moving on to the part that says "..I will give you rest."  I love His kind of rest, don't you?  It doesn't mean sleep or free time to sit on your posterior all day long.  No, it means real rest; rest from your burden of sin or whatever you may be wrestling with. 

I think we all wrestle with sin from time to time; how about daily?  This is a great scripture verse to keep in mind the next time you find yourself struggling; with anything.  As a matter of fact, this is our family scripture memory verse for the week. This also may be the perfect scripture for this coming week when most of us find ourselves sending our kids back to school. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Is John Culberson A Jeffersonian-Republican...Or Not?

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie down the second with chains of the constitution so the second will not become legalized versions of the first."-Thomas Jefferson.

I share that with you because the person I'm writing about espouses on his website to BE a Jeffersonian-Republican.  This is a direct quote from his website, "As a fiscally conservative “Jeffersonian Republican,” Congressman John Culberson is committed to Thomas Jefferson’s vision of limited government, individual liberty, and states’ rights. Simply put, John Culberson believes in “Letting Texans Run Texas.” 

All of that sounds really good, doesn't it?  Well, friends, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.  Let's look at some of the voting action on the part of our fair Congressman Culberson.

I'm a Freedomworks follower and they have a Scorecard that they use to keep up with all of the House and Senate members voting records, both good and bad.  So, here's the first vote on the list in which Congressman Culberson voted against the Freedomworks recommendations.

On H.R. 3457-Omnibus Appropriations for Fiscal year 2014,  Culberson was a 'yea' vote.  This bill funded the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. It spends $45 billion more than the budget caps established in 2011, and perpetuates a vast amount of wasteful spending from previous years. Lawmakers were also given almost no time to read this 1,500 page spending bill.  Reminds me of Democrat Jeff Conyers and his quote about actually reading a bill before passing it.  "What good is it to read a bill that's 1,000 pages when you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you've read the bill?"  Sounds like it might be more than just a Conyers philosophy. 

On the FARM Bill, Culberson was also a 'yea' vote.   This final version of the Farm Bill, reconciled between the House and Senate, actually undoes some of the already modest reforms to crop insurance and food stamps that were previously in the bill. This five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill will spend nearly a trillion dollars over ten years, and remains loaded with corporate welfare and special carve-outs for well-connected agricultural corporations.

His Jeffersonian-Republican framework could be destroyed within the guise of the FARM bill.  Think about it; it expanded government, it spends more money, a trillion over ten years and keeps people on the government dole through food stamps, which is ultimately about the dependency on a hand out.

How about the amendment to House Resolution 4870, to cut Transportation and HUD spending by 1%?  Surely a Jeffersonian Republican would want to cut spending.  Sorry to say, not this time.  He voted NOT to cut spending.

I'll share one more key vote with you and it is on the Highway and Transportation Funding Act.  This bill bails out the nearly depleted Highway Trust Fund through May of 2015, using revenue gimmicks to supposedly offset most of the cost. The Highway Trust fund desperately needs reform instead of merely continuing to receive periodic taxpayer bailouts.  Congressman Culberson was a 'yea' vote on this one, too.  Read my lips, "No more bailouts!"  

Okay, since I've been playing bad cop all this time, maybe it's time for a little good cop.  One of the votes that he got right was to restrict agencies from accessing U.S. citizens' communications metadata.  I guess he felt compelled to do that after he voted for the patriot act, not once, but twice.

These are only four of the votes that earned him a 50% rating on the Freedomworks Scorecard.  To be fair, I went and checked out some of the other really well known scorecards, Eagle Forum and Heritage Action.  He rated a 75% with Eagle Forum and a 68% with heritage Action.  All three scorecards report on much of the same bills, with the exception of a few.  Both Heritage Action and Eagle Forum reported on a bill that Freedomworks did not, which was a bill to establish the Commission to study the potential creation of a National Women's History Museum, a bill that BOTH organizations recommended voting against.  John Culberson voted FOR the bill and it passed.

There's just one more bill I'd like to draw your attention to that he voted against that blows his Jeffersonian-Republican thought process out of the water; a bill to reform the Federal Sugar Program.  From Heritage Action's Website:

Amendment #98 offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) reforms the Federal sugar program: 1) repeals unnecessary trade restrictions; 2) eliminates higher price support levels; 3) reforms domestic supply restrictions to provide more flexibility to USDA; and 4) provides flexibility to USDA in administering quotas.

Heritage Action Position

In 2006, the Department of Commerce found that for every job “saved” by the program, the sugar program kills three manufacturing jobs. Despite claims that it is “zero cost” to taxpayers, the current sugar program distorts prices for sugar products for consumers. It also inflates sugar prices by capping the amount that manufacturers and consumers in the U.S. can import from foreign producers.

Again, this increases the role of government in the private sector, kills jobs and no pun intended, artificially inflates the price of sugar.  What was that about letting Texans run Texas?  I fail to see how any of the votes I've listed here and others he's cast over his tenure as a Congressman line up with his own ideology.