Another courthouse for $60 million
The Austin American-Statesman reports that Travis County officials might want to build a new court administration building for $60 million.
Travis County currently bears $673 million in debt.
The new debt would not require voter approval. From a Libertarian point of view, that doesn't matter too much, since Libertarians don't think that a majority vote turns something bad into something good. However, it does kind of add insult to injury.
Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt is quoted saying, "We don’t have a choice in providing office space for our district attorney." Well, the district attorney is currently in jail, so she can probably do without an office for a while.
Gerald Daugherty, the only Republican County Commissioner, called the plan "pretty bold," but apparently "offered few specific objections."
Travis County taxpayers should probably get ready to pay some more bond interest.
The plain truth is that if there weren't so many laws, we wouldn't need so many courthouses.
Truancy should not be a crime
The Texas Tribune reports on an effort to relax Texas truancy laws a little bit.
Currently, missing school can cause students and parents to be charged under criminal statutes.
Originally the legislation would have removed the criminal offense, but unfortunately that's been put back in.
School attendance should not be mandated by the government. Libertarians have always held that truancy laws turn schools into prisons. Parents and children should have the freedom to choose whether to attend school, without having to prove anything to the state.
The Texas Tribune reports on several Texas District Attorneys who are themselves facing criminal prosecution.
The article says, "One prosecutor is in jail. A former district attorney is facing charges related to sending an innocent man to jail. One county spent nearly $400,000 settling a sexual harassment charge against its DA. Another prosecutor is fighting contempt of court charges after refusing to testify in a prosecutorial misconduct inquiry."
It's a reminder that government officials are no better than the rest of us. They are error-prone human beings too. The difference is, they have a lot of power over us, and they can back up that power with government force.
Libertarians have always said, the more power government has, the more dangerous it becomes.
More resolutions, please
The San Antonio Express-News offers this commentary on the Texas legislative session's "2,052 resolutions that range from political statements to self-congratulatory pats on the back."
These endless resolutions can be hilarious, and someone should make a website with the best examples.
Passing congratulatory resolutions does seem like a waste of time, and many observers might be tempted to say, "Hey, quit passing those stupid resolutions and get back to work!"
But actually, things might be better if they passed a lot more resolutions. Nearly all the "real bills" they pass turn out to be harmful. If the legislators spent their 140 days just passing these resolutions, we'd end up being a lot less burdened by government.
Many people want to tell legislators, "Get back to work!" But Libertarians are more inclined to say, "Please don't get back to work!"
Get rid of the rainy day fund
The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Texas Legislature is working on some constitutional amendment bills that would potentially spend parts of the state's "rainy day fund" on public schools, transportation, and water projects.
The fund current has around $8 billion, and it keeps growing.
How about an amendment that eliminates the rainy day fund and refunds the money to taxpayers? That's something Libertarians could get behind.
It's a bad idea to put giant piles of money in government bank accounts. For one thing, it's a temptation to engage in these massive "one-time" expenditures that can raise expectations and dependency, leading to long-term growth in government programs.
Don't spend it -- end it!
Sure, let's make government nicer
The Houston Chronicle reports that two Texas Congressmen, a Republican and a Democrat, have filed a bill called the "Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2013."
The article says, "The legislation makes federal agencies more transparent and efficient through tougher accountability measures and service improvement targets."
Apparently, we don't need to cut government, we need better "customer service." Note that we're talking about taxpayers, which are not quite the same as customers. Customers have a choice about whether to make the purchase.
The article does not say how much this improved "customer service" would cost, if the bill is passed.
Rather than coming up with ways to make government more attractive, Libertarians support cutting government
The Texas Tribune reports that conservative Republican Governor Rick Perry is asking the Republican-controlled Texas House to break the state constitutional limits on spending in their budget this year.
The Texas Constitution allows spending increases, but not as much as Perry and other Republicans and Democrats want.
The article notes: "The House's chief budget writer, Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said he isn't sure if there are enough votes in the House to break the spending limit but that it will be necessary to do so if lawmakers want to achieve certain expensive goals before the session ends."
Yes, when you have expensive goals, you often have to spend a lot.
Instead of respecting constitutional limitations, Republican and Democratic lawmakers usually try to find ways around them.
In last year's election, a number of Libertarian candidates for the Texas legislature proposed cutting state spending by at least $25 billion.
Brownsville to upgrade bus stops
This article in the Brownsville Herald notes, "Brownsville will continue renovation work on the city’s bus facilities.... As part of a state-funded project, the renovations will bring bus stops into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards."
It goes on to say, "The work will be funded mostly by New Freedom grant money from the Texas Department of Transportation. The new amenities together will cost about $180,000, but the city will fund a 20 percent match of about $37,000."
It goes against Libertarian principles on so many levels!
- Libertarians oppose city government funding of bus systems.
- Libertarians oppose state government funding of bus systems. ("New Freedom grant"?)
- Libertarians oppose the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The amounts mentioned are relatively small, but combined taxpayer funding for public transit in Texas (city, state, and federal) runs in the billions annually.
The end of vampire cops?
The Austin American-Statesman reports on the "U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday placing new restrictions on police taking involuntary blood samples from suspected drunken drivers," saying the new restriction could end most forced blood draws in Texas.
So the court says it violates the Fourth Amendment for a police officer to forcibly draw your blood because he thinks you might be drunk -- that's good.
The bad thing is that anyone could possibly have thought otherwise.
In Austin, police have used forced warrantless blood draws. But according to the article, "Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was among law enforcement leaders who said they will begin requiring warrants anytime a blood sample is drawn from a suspected drunken driver."
Unfortunately, the ruling will probably not affect "no-refusal weekends", in which a judge stays on call at night to hand out quick warrants. It would be better if the courts would outlaw forced blood draws entirely.
The San Antonio Express-News says that space flight company SpaceX is moving toward approval of a South Texas launch site. That's great news for SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, but probably not such a great thing for taxpayers.
SpaceX already receives taxpayer subisidies from NASA, and it's likely that a SpaceX launch site will be subsidized (if not entirely funded) by Texas taxpayers. Virgin Galactic's "Spaceport America" was paid for by the state government of New Mexico.
It looks more and more like these space capitalists aren't free-enterprise visionaries, they're plain old corporate welfare queens. Taxpayers pay; Richard Branson and Elon Musk profit.
Elon Musk has more than one hand in the taxpayer's pocket, by the way. See our earlier post on Tesla Motors.