02.28.07

Krusee v. Ogden

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, SD 5, Williamson County at 1:28 pm by wcnews

An updated AAS article on Sen. Ogden’s statements on TxDOT and tolls has some rebuttal comments from last term Krusee:

Perry’s office and state Rep. Mike Krusee, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, defended the state’s toll road policy.

“The Legislature, including Sen. Ogden, had denied our cities adequate funding for transportation for years,” said Krusee, R-Williamson County. “If we now remove the only effective tool, it’s our cities and our citizens, not TxDOT, who will be harmed, with more congestion, more pollution and less economic opportunity.”

He said that to abandon the state policy would return Texas to the days of 20-year highway projects.

Krusee’s legislative district includes part of Williamson County, which is in Ogden’s Senate district.

Krusee noted that toll roads Texas 130, Texas 45 and the Loop 1 extension have been built since the 2003 bill that he and Ogden co-sponsored.

“It’s ironic that, after the senator’s district benefited with literally billions of dollars of projects, he would prevent other cities from benefiting, too,” Krusee said.

I’ll leave the rebuttal to McBlogger who does much better than I could:

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A Rudderless Session So Far

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Commentary at 11:03 am by wcnews

After reading these three articles – Budget writers waiting for Perry, Perry’s struggles stem from inability to build coalitions, and Legislative session lacking defining focus – this legislative session, at this point and time, is in desperate need of leadership. Uh oh. Especially when you read comments like this about Gov. Perry’s $100 million for border security:

Key House budget writers say Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t given them a blueprint for spending his highly touted $100 million proposal for new border security funds or even formally requested money for the agencies that would do the work.

[...]

“I’m really worried that the governor’s staff may have dropped the ball for him,” said Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. “I’m trying to find out who dropped the ball,where is the money supposed to be placed and is there really a plan? I don’t want to just say, ‘Here’s $100 million, go spend it.’ “

Rep. Kolkhorst is certainly being very accommodating of the governor by blaming his staff. There’s more:

“His budget has no standing in law. Only ours does,” said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, Appropriations chairman. “I think all of us know we’ve got a border security problem. We just want to know where the money’s going. So it’s reasonable for us to require him to tell us what you’re going to do with the money.”

He said Perry’s office had made no formal request to the panel for the $100 million.

“Maybe it just was an ad. A campaign ad,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, of Perry’s border-security proposal.

Kolkhorst said, “I am confident that the governor did not run on an issue and (then) is not going to fulfill it. I’m confident that this governor has said publicly he needed $100 million for border security, and I am confident that that was not rhetoric.”

[..]

Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, said budget writers may have to re-examine the DPS portion of the state budget proposal they’re crafting to accommodate Perry’s detailed proposal when it arrives.

“I think something slipped through the cracks. I think it was the governor’s intention to ask for $100 million for border security. … We’re going to try to put it back together,” she said. “It’s not too late.”

I hear you talking Rep. Kolkhorst but Perry’s actions sure look like border security was an election year ploy.

It definitely seems that Gov. Perry, trying to use his 39% showing in last year’s election as a mandate, to executive-order his way into relevance, is not working:

All this [his recent political failures] follows one of Mr. Perry’s most successful political years. His school finance and tax overhaul package was adopted as law. And he was easily re-elected in a five-way race for governor, though he only got 39 percent of the vote.

The political climate has changed for Mr. Perry, and it all appears to stem from his aggressiveness.

And Harvey Kronberg wraps it up this way:

It is still relatively early in the session, but the unmistakable feeling is that the leaders are all, to some degree, lame ducks and no longer inspire the fear that is a key component to legislative leadership.

After all, most legislators got more votes in their districts than did Perry in the last election. Craddick could not have been re-elected speaker without the aid of a dozen House Democrats who are now all looking over the shoulder at future primary challengers. A few more losses of his team in the next election and there may be a vacancy in the speakers office. And Dewhurst needs to take care of his senators if he expects to count on their loyalty in a gubernatorial face-off with Kay Bailey Hutchison.

For the last four years, the Legislature has been dominated from the top down. We are finally seeing some pushback — that’s a novel, but healthy sign.

Lame-duck leadership and a rudderless session. That’s the consensus so far.

Why Is The Houston Chronicle Doing This?

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary at 8:57 am by wcnews

Why are they printing an article, Critics cite Gore’s huge electricity bill, about a BS story on Al Gore?  It’s by a very “wing-nutty” fringe right-wing think-tank and the story has already been debunked.  He’s won an Oscar, may win a Nobel Peace Prize and has alerted many to the threat of global warming.  Are there any oil and gas corporations in Houston?  The HChron does at least, sorta, offer Gore’s side of the story but never mentions that the whole thing is BS.  But is this news?  A crack-pot think tank taking a shot at the former VP.  That liberal media is at it again.

02.27.07

The More Sunlight That Shines On The TTC…

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Road Issues, Williamson County at 11:36 pm by wcnews

…the uglier it gets. Paul Burka has an excellent post on the House Appropriations Committee taking on Ric Williamson today, House Appropriations vs. TxDOT. Rep. Dan Gattis was very active and critical of Williamson. Ogden and Gattis trashing last term Krusee’s albatross in the same day, times are changing. And this excerpt shows that all our hard work has been paying off:

Member after member spoke of how he or she was getting beaten up back home because of the Corridor.

I really believe that many Republicans are starting to realize that unless they do something about the TTC this could be the turning point in their political dominance in this state and they’re worried.

Williamson County DA John Bradley & The Destruction Of DNA Evidence

Posted in Around The State, Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 11:19 pm by wcnews

There’s quite a discussion going on over at Grits for Breakfast and the TDCAA forum on the topic of destruction of DNA evidence. Here are the two posts from Grits – Destruction of DNA evidence thwarts justice and DAs dislike criticisms of DNA destruction practices. On the TDCAA discussion forum a discussion topic was started about the destruction of DNA evidence (JB is WC DA John Bradlley) as a bargaining chip in plea bargains. Once these attorney’s statements were popularized at Grits the DA’s felt that their statements being put out in the blogosphere was somehow an infringement on their First Amendment rights. Funny how their own words being used against them can be construed as infringing on their First Amendment rights.

These statements are not reporduced to infringe on thier First Amendment rights but to further the discussion. And just like the reaction to bloggers by the MSM, the reaction of these DA’s to bloggers and citizens joining the discussion and criticism of thier statements is eerily similar. It’s very informative to find out how DA’s react when their statements are reproduced, and also to see how they strategize.  (I would recommend anyone interested in how DA’s work to keep up with this forum, it’s very interesting.)
The destruction of DNA evidence seems like an attempt to make sure their mistakes, in the form of wrongful convictions, don’t come back to haunt them, no matter what the truth is. And for this blogger it was very informative. I didn’t even know it was possible, or legal, to use the destruction of evidence as leverage in a plea bargain. It raises the hair on the back of my neck whenever the words destruction of evidence are used.

Excerpts from the two Grits posts are below the fold.

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Sen. Ogden Says He Will Take On Tolls, TxDOT

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Road Issues, SD 5, Williamson County at 11:40 am by wcnews

From the AAS we get this, Finance chairman warns of political force against reform. It’s more than just TxDOT it’s the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Southern University.

Fearing that state officials lack the collective will to act, the Senate Finance Committee chairman said this morning that three state agencies must be reined in despite the embarrassment it may cause.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, cited the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Southern University as severe problems that he fear will be swept under the Capitol rug.

“Two of them are broken,” he said. “And one is out of control.”

v In an interview with the American-Statesman, Ogden warned that political forces were trying to keep lawmakers from dealing with the issues to avoid embarrassing the Legislature and Go. Rick Perry.

I don’t know much other than the basics about the problems at the TYC and TSU. But here’s what Sen. Ogden had to say about TxDOT and tolls:

The powerful senator said the transportation department has “too many tools in their arsenal” to construct highways and the Legislature should take some of them back.

Ogden said he is concerned about the department’s plans to allow private contractors, for a large upfront fee, to build roads and charge tolls — perhaps forever. He said the department has as many as 21 projects under consideration.

“Do we really want to be turning over state highways to private contractors?” Ogden said.

The irony is that Ogden was the Senate author of the bill that in 2003 expanded the commission’s powers to construct roads.

“I’m trying to correct the sins of the past,” Ogden said.

He is considering legislation that would force the tolls to go away once a highway is paid for. He said he is concerned with plans to use toll revenue, long after a highway is paid for, to build more roads.

He said the Legislature is hearing from constituents who want the agency’s powers curbed.

“Every (legislative) member is paying a political price for what they are doing,” Ogden said. “TxDOT needs to be more sensitive and accountable to the Legislature.”

Sen. Ogden is repenting, and it appears has come more to Sen. Carona’s way of thinking on the TTC and tolls and is moving away from last term Krusee’s way of thinking. This is good news and a good first step. I’d like to see stronger legislative rhetoric than, “He’s considering legislation..” But this is progress and he deserves credit for that. Give Sen. Ogden a call or send him an email letting him know you appreciate this effort.

Traffic

Posted in Commentary, Road Issues at 10:00 am by wcnews

Traffic was A LOT heavier today on my non-toll route to work than it has been since the toll roads opened. I’m not sure if it was the fog or the fact that T(a)xTag statements went out yesterday. That’s A LOT of money even at half-price.

02.26.07

This Weeks Anti-Toll Events

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Road Issues at 2:50 pm by wcnews

This Thursday, March 1st is Sen. Carona’s special hearing on transportation policy. Meaning toll policy, public private partnerships and the TTC. AAS transportation writer Ben Wear has already pre-determined that the hearing will be “zoo” because it will be held in a 200 seat auditorium instead of a smaller hearing room. He also believes that as long as 39% and last term Krusee are guiding transportation policy the TTC is a slam dunk. We’ll see.

The Thursday hearing, the subject of much excitement among anti-tollsters on the Web, is scheduled to go all day, another rarity for legislative hearings not involving the state budget or school finance. Will it lead to any radical change in state policy? Probably not as long as Perry lives at 11th and Colorado streets and the House Transportation Committee is run by Perry/Williamson ally Rep. Mike Krusee, a Williamson County Republican.

The next day, Friday, March 2nd it’s the Don’t Tag Texas Rally – flyer (.PDF) – sponsored by the Farm And Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). Jimmie Vaughn will play and there will be many speakers:

Penny Langford-Freeman: District Director for Congressman Ron Paul
Hank Gilbert: 2006 Democratic Candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner
Liz McIntyre: Co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move
Michael Badnarik: Libertarian candidate for President in 2004
John Dromgoole: The Natural Gardener
Judith McGeary: Executive Director, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Linda Curtis: Executive Director of Independent Texans
David Stall: Co-Founder of Corridor Watch
Terri Hall: Regional Director, San Antonio Toll Party
Alex Jones: National radio broadcaster and documentary filmmaker
Gina Parker: National Issues Chairman, Eagle Forum

That’s quite a diverse group. It just goes to show that bad public policy can be realized by everyone. The rally is also to address the problems with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which you can find out all about here.

A Weak Executive’s Orders

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Had Enough Yet? at 11:57 am by wcnews

After Reconstruction and a new Texas Constitution, Texas was purposefully made to have a weak executive in an effort to decentralize government. With that in mind it’s only natural that executives would push against the limits of their power, from time to time, and try to acquire more.

That being said the recent MO of the our former governor and current president – I’ll do what I want when I want – has obviously bled over into our current governor. Gov. Perry’s penchant for governing by executive order – instituting what failed to make it through the legislative process by fiat – is very reminiscent of President Bush’s use of signing statements to try and get around laws passed by Congress.

Since he became governor in 2000, Perry has issued 65 executive orders. Most are the usual gubernatorial mix of disaster declarations, study task forces and flags flying at half-staff to honor the dead.

However, more than either of the previous two governors, Perry also has used executive orders to expand the power of his office, and his executive order mandating vaccinations against the human papillomavirus is not the first that over-stepped the Legislature.

At least four times, Perry has issued executive orders for state agencies to adopt policies that failed to pass in the Legislature — including a bill by Chisum to speed up the hearings process on air pollution permits such as the one involved in the TXU case.

Of course the most humorous part of all this is how little Republicans and “conservatives” cared about Gov. Perry’s abuse of these orders until it hit them between the eyes. As long as he was using them to screw the teacher’s unions and help big business they didn’t much care.

An obvious hypocrisy in Perry’s HPV order and lottery sale scheme is his sudden “concern” for the Texans without health care. If Perry was truly concerned about the health care of Texans he’d issue an Executive Order putting back the funding that was taken from CHIP 4 years ago, at the least, and if he’s really serious, mandating health care for all Texans. Although there’s no former member of Perry’s staff that has taken it upon themselves to become a lobbyist for children or Texans without health care. Sadly that, more than likely, explains why he hasn’t.

To a certain extent this is nothing more than the natural tug-of-war between branches of government. These orders, until recently, were mainly used for ceremonial announcements.  This is not supposed to be a tool for the governor to use to make or change laws. The disturbing part is that most legislators and citizens didn’t much care if the governor did this as long as they agreed with it. If the governor doesn’t have the power to make or change existing laws using these orders, then it’s illegal and it’s wrong, whether one agrees with the governor or not.

02.25.07

John Carter Took $3,000 From CCA

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 12:20 am by wcnews

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) the corporation that’s responsible for locking up children and families at T. Don Hutto has given money to many politicians in Texas and around the nation. Here’s the FEC disclosure. John Carter took $3,000 from them. Texas Senator’s Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have taken $2,000 each. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith took $4,500 and Rep. Pete Sessions took $1,000. There’s many more names and organizations that are easily recognizable in CCA’s FEC disclosure.

Puts in context John Carter’s comments on his visit to T. Don Hutto:

“We talked to a whole table full of moms and kids,” Carter said. “We talked about the schools and they love them.”

[...]

But Congressman Carter says the Corrections Corporation of America is doing a good job providing a family-like environment. He also believes the education the children are getting meets Texas standards.

“I don’t know where they are getting this information, but I saw nothing other than a very compassionate, family-oriented facility,” Carter said.

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