As 2016 comes to a close, here are five of the most important stories we covered this year…  And some questions to be asking in 2017.

#5. Ethically challenged agency undermines First Amendment

A rogue state agency has been quietly working to undermine the rights of Texans to participate in government, while protecting their enablers in the crony politician class. The Texas Ethics Commission was originally formed to set lawmakers’ per diemreimbursement allowance, and to recommend to voters salary changes for the legislature. Since then, the bureaucracy has bloated into a full-fledged speech-regulation agency that limits citizens’ engagement in public policy debates.

QUESTION for 2017Will the “Ethics” Commission be reined-in and constitutional liberties protected, or will the Democrat coalition leadership in the Texas House try again to make it harder for Texans to exercise their rights?

#4. Labor union gets busted by jury

After nearly a decade of trying to “kill” a Houston-based janitorial service, the Chicago-based SEIU labor union was ordered by a Harris County jury to pay more than $5 million to the business. Texans like to think labor unions are a problem somewhere else, but big labor unions – after crippling economies across the nation – have had their eyes set on Texas.

QUESTION for 2017… Will the Democrat coalition leadership in the Texas House, helmed by State Rep. Joe Straus of San Antonio, continue to protect labor unions like they did in 2015, or will the Republican-in-name House finally follow the lead of the Senate in doing what’s best for Texans? 

#3. Article V advocates flood Capitol

As President-elect Donald Trump likes to say, Washington, DC, is a swamp that needs to be drained. The framers of the Constitution foresaw a day when the federal government would be out-of-control and unwilling to reform itself, so they ensured that the sovereign states of the union would be able to amend the Constitution without congressional meddling. A massive movement has grown up around this power, found in Article V of the Constitution, and Convention of States Project advocates in Texas are pushing hard for the Lone Star State to join in.

QUESTION for 2017Will the blockade in the Texas Senate be lifted now that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have both put calling for a Convention of States on their list of legislative priorities?

#2. Taxpayers fight back

Texans suffer under one of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, and local governments – particularly local education bureaucracies – have seemed intent on making the burden even heavier. But in 2016, two very high-profile efforts to take more from the taxpayers were defeated by citizens outraged by under-performing schools. The Frisco and Midland school districts were stopped cold, with taxpayers demanding reforms before new monies are allocated.

QUESTION for 2017… Will the Texas Legislature crack down on local governments that have raised taxes past the breaking point by making it easier for taxpayers to challenge the schemes? 

#1. Voter Fraud!

While the fake-news operations in the mainstream media have tried to ignore voter fraud, overwhelming evidence of corruption has been exposed in stories broken by Empower Texans and Texas Scorecard. In Hill County, there were more votes counted than voters participating in the March 2016 Republican primary. Meanwhile, in Tarrant County an alleged “vote harvesting” operation has been in operation for several years focused mainly on local government elections. Subsequent reports by other media entities allege Republican consultants and local officials conspired to get cronies elected to offices that oversee large contracts.

Many have contended that the lack of prosecution of vote-fraud and ballot malfeasance stems from an election code that provides little incentive for prosecutors to investigate cases, and makes it almost impossible to overturn a fraudulent election once it is finally uncovered.

QUESTION for 2017… Will lawmakers put teeth in the state’s election code to prevent such malfeasance from occurring again and restore voters’ faith in elections?

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."