I voted…..and for Prop 1 I Voted NO

Texas makes it fairly easy to vote early; the polls are even open on Sunday. So after church, I stopped by and cast my vote.
As usual, I voted for those I believe will support a small government. Or at least not growing it as fast as possible.

On the ballot is a state-wide Proposition

“The constitutional amendment providing for the use and dedication of certain money transferred to the state highway fund to assist in the completion of transportation construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation projects, not to include toll roads.”

Let’s look at what the Proposition does and then I’ll explain why I voted against it.

The additional transportation money would come from directing a portion of the state’s annual oil and gas production tax collections to the State Highway Fund. Currently, the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) receives 75 percent of the state’s annual oil and gas production tax collections that exceed the amount collected in fiscal year 1987, when it was created. If approved by voters, half of the money currently destined for the ESF would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund. The remaining half would continue to build the unspent balance of the ESF. According to estimates from the Texas Comptroller, if voters approved the Constitutional Amendment $1.7 billion would be transferred in to the State Highway Fund in the first year alone.

Okay….First reason is right there — it takes money that is supposed to be dedicated to the Economic Stabilization or “Rainy Day” Fund and directs it to transportation projects such as roads and bridges.

Second reason;

(c) Not later than the 90th day of each fiscal year, the comptroller of public accounts shall transfer from the general revenue fund to the economic stabilization fund and the state highway fund the sum of the amounts described [prescribed] by Subsections (d) and (e) of this section, to be allocated as provided by Subsections (c-1) and (c-2) of this section. However, if necessary and notwithstanding the allocations prescribed by Subsections (c-1) and (c-2) of this section, the comptroller shall reduce proportionately the amounts described by Subsections (d) and (e) of this section to be transferred and allocated to the economic stabilization fund to prevent the amount in that [the] fund from exceeding the limit in effect for that biennium under Subsection (g) of this section.Revenue transferred to the state highway fund under this subsection may be used only for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring rights-of-way for public roadways other than toll roads.

Breaking down the politician weasel wording; Each legislative session the politicians would vote for a ‘floor’ on how little money has to stay in the Rainy Day fund and then split any money (remaining  above and beyond that) and new money into the Rainy Day fund and the State Highway fund.

So letting the politicians decide how much we should keep in the rainy day fund is a bad thing (more on this later). Related to this is the tendency of politicians to vote against appropriating the necessary amount of money for the important projects and then use other money to prop it up.
Sorry folks, if the State Highway fund isn’t getting enough money; the answer is simple; either vote for more taxes or stop spending money wastefully.

 

Lastly,

The constitutional amendment would provide significant progress in addressing the state’s unmet transportation needs by providing $1.7 billion in the first year alone. However, this amendment alone does not “solve” Texas’ transportation funding challenge. Experts say Texas has at least $5 billion in unmet transportation needs each year. This measure is expected to provide $1.7 billion annually to address these transportation needs.

Yeah, won’t come anywhere close to solving the problem but it would siphon even more money off from the Rainy Day fund. Yes, this is the final problem — the Rainy Day fund is a political slush fund that politicians tap on a regular basis and it needs to stop. NOW.

I feel we need to vote against every transfer of money out of that account. I think we need to hold politicians accountable for its depletion. Our recent history in the last 5 to 10 years shows how rocky the economy can be. We need to be prepared, as individuals and as a polity, to weather uncertain or hard times.

So, that is why I voted against it.

What do you folks think; would you vote for or against?

 

Still Less Than A CHL

Mike Norman, opinion writer at the Star-Telegram, is whining about the Voter ID law. If anyone has been following the law in the media, you know it has been a confusing tale. One court strikes it down, another re-instates it. It’s been going back and forth at the legal equivalent of a ping pong match.

In fact, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi found the requirements “draconian” and ruled last week that the voter ID law passed by the Legislature in 2011 discriminated against African-American and Hispanic voters.

And, according to the evidence in a nine-day trial, that’s what the Legislature wanted.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals brushed those findings aside — didn’t even address them — on Tuesday in ruling that because voting is just days away, the state should be allowed to enforce its voter ID rules as planned.

And to be frank, I am very conflicted on whether or not I want the courts to strike this down.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think having to show ID is a good idea. This is a right that only exists because a person is a member of the polity; so showing proof of that is not violating a fundamental right.

Where I get my confusion is how we, gun owners and pro-rights supporters, could use the case.

 

It’s not hard to get the proper ID, proponents say. But evidence showed that for hundreds of thousands of Texans — disproportionately, African-Americans and Hispanics who are poor — it is difficult.

For them, the travel time to the nearest Department of Public Safety office to get a free ID card is 90 minutes or more. When they get there, they must have the proper documentation, which typically includes a certified copy of their birth certificate.

If they were born in Texas and can make an in-person visit to the proper records office and know how to ask for it, they can get a birth certificate for the cut rate of $2 or $3.

If they need to get it by mail, need to correct errors in their certificate, were not registered at birth or need a certificate from another state, the cost is at least $22 or as much as $47.

Those costs led the judge to declare the new voter ID law an unconstitutional poll tax, although that was not the primary focus of the trial.

Emphasis mine in the above paragraph. I looked up Taxi cab rates in the Dallas Fort Worth area and assumed about 60 miles travel in 90 minutes round trip. At $2.25 for initial charge and $1.80 per mile; that works out to about $110. Add in the $3 charge in person cost to get a Birth Certificate and round up to about $115 dollars.

Still less than the basic costs of a Concealed Handgun License at $140. Plus the $10 for the fingerprints, something the Voter ID does not require. Plus the $10 or so for Photos. Plus the $35 to $150 dollars for the class, Plus the $5 Proficiency Test fee. Even if we double the costs for the taxi instead of bus fare or getting a friend to take the person to get their birth certificate — it still is less burdensome than getting a Concealed Handgun License. And let’s not forget that each and every applicant for a CHL has to have a valid form of photo identification already !!!!!!

 

In fact, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi found the requirements “draconian” and ruled last week that the voter ID law passed by the Legislature in 2011 discriminated against African-American and Hispanic voters.

Hence my dilemma. If it is based on cost and burden; it should be clear that having to get a license to carry in public would have a greater impact on African-American and Hispanic voters. But of course that assume the judge trying the case would apply the law in a logical, rational and consistent basis. Most of the time I haven’t seen that happen when we are talking about restrictions on 2nd Amendment issues.

 

I think that the legislation will get around, eventually, to making Open Carry legal with a license. Then it is a short stride from there (huge hurdle but small step) to Constitutional Carry. So I’m not putting too much hope on the courts forcing the Legislation to act.

So how do the 3 or 4 people still reading this feel? Should we require a photo id for voting? Do you support the courts striking down or keeping the Voter ID law?

T.A.B.C. Withdraws Alcohol/Gun Show Proposal

It’s a short notice on their website

TABC Staff Recommends Withdrawing Proposed Gun Show Amendments.

The proposed amendments to TABC Administrative Rule 36.1 (Possession and Sale of Firearms on Licensed Premises) are being placed on the agenda for the September 23, 2014, Meeting of the Commissioners. The Commission Staff is recommending that the proposed amendments be withdrawn. The decision on what action to take will be made by the Commissioners. If the Commissioners vote to withdraw the proposed amendments, the current rule will remain in place.

Other sites do have a little more coverage of the issue though.

Staff at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has recommended withdrawing last month’s proposal at the panel’s next meeting on Tuesday.

Alcohol sales would have come with strict conditions, such as banning the sale of live ammunition, a requirement that firearms be disabled and not allowing a buyer to walk out with their weapon.

It was, in my opinion, a combination of the banning the sale of live ammunition and preventing a buyer from walking out with his/her purchase that was the main sticking point.

Beck said the rule was drafted to address the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention, a massive event that draws up to 50,000 people that is mostly designed as an exhibit and may include only a few booths with weapons.

While it may have been designed to address the Safari Club’s convention; it would have hit dozens of other events like the Friends of the NRA banquets or even my gun club’s Annual Banquet. These events are often either great fund raisers or opportunities to increase membership. This was not a ‘gun friendly’ proposal.

 

 (f)   A location that has a license or permit authorizing the on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages may only allow a gun or firearms show or display at the location if:
   (1)   the location is owned or leased by a governmental entity or nonprofit civic, religious, charitable, fraternal, or veterans’ organization;
   (2)   the location is used for a gun or firearms show or display only on an occasional basis; and
   (3)   a written agreement between the operator of the show or display and the permittee or licensee is filed at the commission’s district office and approved by the commission 30 days prior to the gun or firearms show or display and the agreement includes the following:

If nothing else, this section was worth defeating because it greatly limited where gun shows could be held.

Great job folks, I do have to mention the spin put on this by the state.

The commission asked for public feedback and hundreds of responses poured in from all sides.

“It was for the most part negative,” agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Friday. “They were either against it because they didn’t think alcohol and guns should mix, or there was feedback against the restrictions.”

Yeah……..notice Ms. Beck ‘casually’ lumped those two very different reactions together. I’m betting there were many more comments against the restrictions then anything else.

 

Local Media Getting It Right

Very impressed with Tim Ryan and Fox4 — the details and knowledge of the Concealed Handgun License and applicable laws is well presented.

 

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Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com
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This action and the statement on the news station website show why I don’t go to AMC Theaters for the most part.

 

AMC Theatres

For the safety of our guests and associates, we do not permit weapons in our theatres. However, we welcome off-duty officers as guests at AMC and they are exempt from this policy with official identification. Based on the information we’ve received, the guest did not show an official department identification card and our theatre team properly enforced this policy. We have reached out to the guests to discuss the situation directly with them.
AMC Theatres (to use their spelling) are a private enterprise. They are free to prohibit concealed carry on their property; although as a public accommodation, I could make a case otherwise. I won’t. I’ll just abide by their wishes as much as I can and not patronize them.
I do think this is a step forward when the media gets the facts and the law down as well as Tim Ryan did. Good job sir.

Training Effectiveness

Let’s imagine there is an organization providing training for people wanting to get their Concealed Handgun License — in one class only 7 out of 27 students passed the written examination on the first attempt. An examination that requires students only to get 70% of the answers correct.

Well that could be a fluke, right? Just a bunch of people who didn’t take it serious.

What if you found out that out of the last 4 classes there were similar problems; students seemingly unable to master the concepts of when to use force, what the law says, etc?

I don’t know about you but I would worry just how much those students had learned.

 

Now what if I told you that organization was the Dallas Sheriff’s Training Academy?

 

An exclusive NBC 5 investigation reveals a crisis inside the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.  

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Training Academy is at risk of being shut down by the state because last year’s recruits did so poor on the state’s basic licensing exam.

NBC 5 Investigates obtained records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which certifies Texas Police Academies, that indicate only 25 percent of last year’s recruits passed the exam on the first try.  

Their records show 27 recruits took the exam at the academy in 2013 but only seven passed on the first try. The state requires 80 percent of recruits pass on the first attempt and every police academy in Texas did that last year, except Dallas County who had the worst percentage in the entire state.

NBC 5 Investigates learned the state put Dallas County’s academy on probation last fall, which means they are at risk for losing their license.

NBC5 posted that report back in May — sorry blog and real life issues kept me from addressing this sooner.

Does that fill you with confidence and security knowing that it took multiple attempts for the majority of the class to get a “C” on the final exam? In interest of full disclosure, for a Concealed Handgun License with its admittedly shorter/less comprehensive test also requires a passing grade of 70% on the examination.

Before last year, the academy had stellar grades.  In 2012, recruits logged a 100 percent passing rate.

Law enforcement training experts said a sudden drop often points to a poor recruiting class or poor teaching and that both could be a problem.

 

Follow up investigations reveal that the issues do not appear to be with a single class.

NBC 5 Investigates obtained copies of the scores for the last four academy classes. A score of 70 is a passing grade for individual cadets, but in the last four classes the average score on the problem solving and critical thinking portion of the test ranged from just 50 to 60 percent. Three of the last four classes had failing scores on the force options section — which gauges their knowledge of when it’s OK to use a weapon.

Recent Dallas County academy classes also had scores averaging below 70 percent in test areas including controlled substances, arrest search and seizure, traffic laws and crisis intervention – mental health code training.

In one recent academy class, the average score on the family code and juvenile justice portion of the test was a mere 36 percent.

So, let’s consider the ways that the recent classes, including the 2012 class which had a 100% pass rate could have passed.

a. The prospective peace officers took the test repeatedly until they got it right.
b. The prospective peace officers received illegal assistance in passing the test.

Does either scenario fill you with confidence and security about the peace officers coming out of that organization? Especially when you consider that once they passed the test; any department or agency could have hired them!

 

The anti-rights cultist generally harp on how people who carry firearms need to be trained like professional law enforcement officers are trained. Yet the reality of the situation is peace officers aren’t held to incredibly high standards. I’ll be covering the training requirements in more detail later. I want to assure people this isn’t a knock on law enforcement in general; more of pointing out the problems with a major training institution and the tendency of the antis to put law enforcement on a pedestal.

The simple fact is most officers are decent people trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately they are also working for agencies usually headed by political appointees or elected officials trying to stay in office. Unfortunately most officers do not possess the in depth knowledge of the law or the Constitutions.

In fact, I was shocked that for a Basic Peace Officer certification only 8 hours out of 643 — a measly 0.16% of the of the time — is spent on the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution and the Texas  Constitution.

Please join the discussion.

 

And thanks for sticking around and the messages regarding the blog; it really helped to know that people were reaching out to me during the past couple of months.

 

 

Yeah, About that Claim of Terrorizing People….

….I’m gonna need you to, um…perhaps retract that outrageous claim. The Fort Worth Police department made the claim in an email

An email from Sgt. Ray Bush, with the Fort Worth Police Department, said Jack in the Box employees at the South Freeway location on Sycamore School Road, were scared about the armed men protesting outside of the restaurant.

“They locked themselves inside a freezer for protection out of fear the rifle-carrying men would rob them,” the email stated. “The demonstration had no signage that would have alerted anyone to their real purpose, and to our knowledge they did not attempt to contact anyone in the Fort Worth Police Department to advise us prior to the demonstration.”

The Media ran with it, seemingly without trying to vet, for days. Even when the story started falling part (from O.C.T.’s FB page)

Open carry activists at a Fort Worth Jack in the Box drew the attention of police following a 911 call. (Photo credit: Facebook)

From the Open Carry Tarrant County FB Page

The anti-rights advocates still haven’t seen fit to address the issue by printing a retraction — despite the company in question saying the story is false

An earlier version of this post included information from Sgt. Ray Bush of the Forth Worth Police Department, who wrote in an email last week that the employees at the Jack in the Box where Open Carry Texas staged a demonstration “locked themselves inside a freezer for protection out of fear the rifle-carrying men would rob them.” However, Brian Luscomb, vice president of corporate communications for Jack in the Box, told the New York Times this evening, “Our employees told us that they did not hide in the freezer.” We have amended the post to reflect this new information.

And don’t you love how the NYT puts the retraction at the very bottom of the page? Now, we are starting to get information regarding the — yes, I said THE – 911 call that was made. So far it is the only one that has been released in regards to this demonstration.
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It looks like that is the only call made. So let’s see; friendly smiling faces (the guy posing with the OCT group is the manager), non -terrified appearing employees in the background, no 911 calls released from the employees. Even the 911 caller didn’t sound terrified or excited. You know what I think happened – NOTHING, at least until the police over reacted.

 

Come on seriously Fort Worth Police department; how many times have their been reports of Armed people strolling about in a parking lot and problems arise from it.  Not to often. Add to that no other reports of shots fired, no other 911 calls.

We can debate the merits of Open Carry and the methods used by this advocacy group all day long; in the end that misses any important point. The point that even in a state were Open Carry isn’t that common; it just doesn’t generate the level of hysteria or concern from ordinary people. Let’s keep going and make sure everyone realizes this; let’s point out the lies of the media and the Mom’s Demanding Attention And Bloomberg’s Money.

 

Please join the discussion.

Texas CHL Law Update

I might have mentioned this in passing but I didn’t cover in any detail. On 1 Sep 2013, a few firearm related bills were enacted into law.

One of those was Senate Bill 299 which changed section 46.035 as shown below

AN ACT

relating to the intentional display of a handgun by a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Subsections (a) and (h), Section 46.035, Penal Code, are amended to read as follows:

(a) A license holder commits an offense if the license holder carries a handgun on or about the license holder’s person under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and intentionally displays fails to conceal the handgun in plain view of another person in a public place.

(h) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a) that  the actor, at the time of the commission of the offense, displayed the handgun under circumstances in which the actor would have been justified in the use of force or deadly force under Chapter 9.

SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred before that date. 

SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2013.

How big of a change is this? Really really big folks.

Remember in Section 411.171 there is this definition:

(3) “Concealed handgun” means a handgun, the presence of which is not openly discernible to the ordinary observation of a reasonable person.

This removes considerable worry about a shirt riding up or the wind blowing a cover garment up and exposing the firearm.Combine that with the protection of displaying in situations where the use of force or deadly force would be appropriate and the really helps the gun owner.
Not quite Open Carry but on the way. Even more importantly was the fact this bill wasn’t a stretch, it wasn’t an oddity in an otherwise hostile legislative session; it was 1 of 14 bills (Link edited — Happy Cormac???????)  that generally improved the rights of the people.

Please join the discussion.

 Aaron Spuler looked at the bills back in June 2013  – good recap