The Darsch Report: Feb. 11-17

SA Climate Action

Over the next week the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, also known as SA Climate Action, is set to go to the public sphere of San Antonio as a means for the city to combat and address climate change.

The plan is already under scrutiny by environmental activists who say that the plan does not go far enough and by business leaders who say that it goes too far.

SA Climate Ready lays out a road map for the city to prepare for climate change and reach an overall objective of carbon neutrality — meaning the city, its residents and businesses would stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — by 2050.

The 84-page plan recommends that the city switch to more renewable energy, reduce energy use in buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles in order to address the climate of San Antonio becoming hotter and drier.

Many businesses, especially those tied to the fossil fuel industry, believe that the bill is specifically signaling them out and that they are no longer welcome in the city.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse criticized the plan stating, “I’ve heard from multiple business sources that this is a job-killing venture. We can’t be selling short the economic impacts of this plan.”

Angela Paxton

On Friday, Feb. 15, Sen. Angela Paxton filed Senate Bill 860 in the Texas State Legislature with the purpose of creating within the attorney general’s office an entirely new program — what the bill calls a “regulatory sandbox” — that would allow approved individuals “limited access to the market … without obtaining a license, registration, or other regulatory authorization.” The bill aims to cut red tape for the growing financial tech sector, allowing businesses to market new products for up to two years and to as many as 10,000 customers with scant regulation.

Angela Paxton said the bill is geared toward strengthening consumer protections in the underregulated, ever-changing financial tech industry — a sector that in Texas is largely centered in Richardson, part of her North Texas district.

But skeptics pointed to the bill’s optics problem: Ken Paxton, a statewide official accused of violating state securities law, would be empowered to decide who can skirt state securities law. And he’d get that power from a bill authored by his wife. Currently, Texas law requires investment advisers to register with the state — failing to do so is a third-degree felony punishable by a sentence of two to 10 years.

Regardless of the actions that Attorney General Paxton took, the bill should come under the same scrutiny, skepticism, review and amendment that goes into any other bill that enters the Texas State Legislature.

National Emergency

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the US southern border and will be using funds not given to him by Congress for a border wall or barrier.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” Trump said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”

The emergency declaration, according to White House officials, enables the president to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to the wall. Trump will also use more traditional presidential discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.

Combined with $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in the spending package passed on Thursday night, Trump would have about $8 billion in all for barriers, more than the $5.7 billion he unsuccessfully demanded from Congress.

Although construction for the barriers hasn’t entered the planning phase yet for this declaration, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California stated that the state is planning on suing the president “to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.”

The national emergency is a way for President Trump to move around Congress to receive the funding he wants for a border wall but as it currently stands, not much may come out of the lawsuits. Trump isn’t the first President to use executive action/national emergencies to move around Congress, but also much of the funding for it won’t come at the taxpayers’ expense as it is a reallocation of funds rather than an increase in spending.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,883.25 on Friday, increasing by +339.06 points, or +1.33 percent over its Feb.  8 close of 25,106.33. The S&P 500 increased by +67.72 points or +2.50 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by +2.39 percent.

Trade talks between the US and China are still going well according to US and Chinese sources. This has been much of the cause of optimism in investors and the rally seen over the past week as many are hoping to see an end to the trade war.

Green New Deal Vote

Eyeing an opportunity to put Democrats on the spot, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, announced on Tuesday, Feb12, that he plans on holding a vote on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-NY, and Sen. Ed Markey’s, D-Mass, Green New Deal.

“I’ve noted with great interest, the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters. “And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate, going to give everyone an opportunity to go on record, and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

The 14-page document released Thursday sets a goal of moving to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and outlines a series of broad methods to achieve it, like upgrading or replacing existing buildings to be more energy efficient, upgrading electric grids to make better use of renewable energy, and investing in electric vehicles and mass transportation. It also includes a call to guarantee a well-paying job for every American and provide universal health care and housing.

The measure is backed by many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The move of Sen. McConnell is a smart one as every Republican Senator can unite in opposition to the bill but it may divide Democrats, many of whom are running for reelection or for President in 2020. It is a way to force senators to put their money where their mouth is and not just talk about support or opposition.

The Darsch Report: Feb. 4 – 10

Bexar County Child Sex Crime

On Thursday, Feb. 7, a Bexar County Sheriff’s Office records employee was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child.

Jose Angel Laines, 44, is currently assigned to the Sheriff’s Office records section and has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office since 2004.

“The disturbing allegations against this 14-year employee go back to at least a decade. We are glad our warrants team was able to get him into custody. We have already initiated termination proceedings and we stand ready to assist SAPD with whatever they may need,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

The press release said the Bexar County Sheriff’s Public Integrity Unit has begun an administrative investigation into the incident and is working in conjunction with the San Antonio Police Department pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Laines has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact and has a $75,000 bond for each charge.

Both the San Antonio Police Department and Bexar County Sheriff’s Public Integrity Unit have started their own investigations into the matter so hopefully, this case will be finished quickly so that the child and their family can begin to move past this horrific encounter.

Migrant Caravan on Texan Border

Since Feb. 4 roughly 1,800 Central American migrants intent on seeking asylum in the US have been playing a frustrating waiting game on the Mexican side of the Texas-Mexico border.

The migrants, who are mostly Honduran, are being housed in a former warehouse in Piedras Negras — and being guarded by Mexican law enforcement — while they wait to be let into the US.

Due to the very slow process of going through these migrants, US Customs and Border Protection officers are only able to process about 16 to 20 of the migrants a day according to CNN. This has lead to high tensions between law enforcement and the migrants with many being told by Mexican officials to return to Honduras.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has joined the US Border Patrol in stationing agents in Eagle Pass, Texas — on the banks of the north side of the Rio Grande. They’re meant to deter any migrants who might choose to cross the river instead of waiting their turn in Mexico

“As part of our border security plan we keep DPS on the border with boats & planes. They work with local & federal authorities to enforce the law,” Gov. Abbott tweeted alongside a picture of the law enforcement build up.

US and Mexican law enforcement need to possibly work together and process every single migrant to make sure that they are legitimate asylum seekers and not someone who would pose a threat to the US, Mexico or their citizens.

Green New Flop

Early on Feb. 7, NPR received the Frequently Asked Questions page of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY.) Green New Deal. It was immediately criticized by opponents and supporters alike until it was eventually taken down from down NPR’s and Cortez’s website later that day.

The FAQ was specifically ripped apart not for wanting to lower US carbon emissions, but how it plans to do that and the economic policies it proposes. It should also be noted that the Green New Deal is considered a “Non-Binding Agreement”, meaning that even if it passes, Congress is just saying that it will work towards lowering carbon emissions and the other goals laid out in the deal.

The FAQ states that “[i]t guarantees to everyone:

  • A job with family-sustaining wages, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security
  • High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools
  • High-quality health care
  • Clean air and water
  • Healthy food
  • Safe, affordable, adequate housing
  • An economic environment free of monopolies
  • Economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work…

and a transition away from nuclear to renewable power sources only”

The bill does not state how it plans on providing everyone in the US with these things or how it plans to pay for them. The phrase “economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work” is especially troubling as it will create an incentive for people to not work as they will be provided with everything that they need anyway “a job… healthcare… food…[and] housing.”

Though many in the US support the idea of a Green New Deal this bill is more of a government take over of the largest industries in America than an investment in renewable energy. Even going as far as to want to phase out nuclear, one of the most efficient and reliable energy sources that have little to no greenhouse gas emissions.

US Economy

It was a decent week for US stocks, with a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,106.33 on Friday, increasing by +42.44 points, or +0.17% percent over its Feb. 3 close of 25,063.89. The S&P 500 increased by +1.35 points or +0.05% percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -0.47 percent.

This comes on news that the US and China are still negotiating an end to the trade war with a deadline for reaching a deal by March 1. The economy did not do that well this week but it is still remaining positive. The US has a very volatile stock market at the moment but this volatility should go away by the end of 2019.

Possible Border Deal

On Saturday, Feb. 9, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said that both Republican and Democratic legislators were optimistic about coming to a bipartisan deal on border security that would avoid another government shutdown.

Hoyer said that he doesn’t know the specifics of the deal, including the amount for border barriers, but does “hope [that] as early as Monday we will hear what that agreement is.” Negotiators last Friday were closing in on a deal that many lawmakers are calling a rebuff to Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion dollars for a wall along parts of the US-Mexico border. Instead, lawmakers are focusing on a compromise that would give no more than $2 billion for border barriers.

Hoyer said that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will bring the agreement to vote in their respective chambers but it currently appears that Trump may veto the deal with tweets he made about it on Feb. 10. Lawmakers have until Feb. 15 to come up with an agreement that can pass both chambers of Congress and be accepted by Trump otherwise we enter another partial shutdown.

Trump is not in that good of a position depending on what will be in the finalized compromise bill. He will get funding for barriers along the US southern border but many of his supporters may see it as too much of a compromise compared to his original demand of $25 billion back in 2017. Democrats may come out of this worse though as 93% of Democrats and Democratic leaners oppose expanding the wall along the southern border.