As House Speaker Tom Craddick releases his Interim Charges in three parts, to get three days of media out of it, (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 [All in .PDF]). Keep in mind that they’re more than that, this is a look into what the agenda of another Craddick-lead session will hold in the Texas House. From Vince’s analysis (here and here) we can see it will be more budget scams, more Voter IDiocy, immigrant bashing, etc.. In other words, nothing new or different. This is also a blueprint for those anti-Craddick Republicans and right-leaning Democrats as to what issue Craddick’s money and backers will be hammering them with in the upcoming primary and general election. This is the Speaker’s, and his minions, agenda after all.
There are a couple of traditional media stories on some specific charges. One from the AAS talks about the rise in public retiree health care costs.
As directed by Speaker Tom Craddick on Wednesday, the state House Pensions and Investments Committee will “explore options for funding” retiree benefits before the next regular legislative session convenes in January 2009. [Added by EOW: Speaker's Interim Charges, House Committee on Pensions and Investments. 2. Explore options for funding other post-employment benefits, and examine strategies employed by other governmental entities in addressing these obligations.]
State Sen. Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he hasn’t had a chance to review the pension plans’ estimates and it’s too soon to tell how budget writers will respond.
“I think it’s good we’ve got the number out there,” said Ogden, R-Bryan. “I think it is a good exercise in recognizing we have a possibility for some pretty substantial increases in the amount of money the state is going to have to come up with for basically the state employee and other retiree health care costs.”
I’ve long thought that’s the next thing the Texas GOP will come after, public retiree pensions. This is another thing to consider about national single-payer and/or universal health care. It would take considerable pressure off of state pensions.
Another article, this one in the DMN, Texas legislation targeting non-citizen voting planned, deals with the fact that Craddick and his minion Leo Berman will go after virtually non-existent issue of non-citizen voting. They will try to pass Voter IDiocy for a third time, if Craddick returns. For our sake Democratic state Rep. Rafael AnchÃa is still on the committee.
The House Committee on Elections will start hearing testimony in January on voter fraud, and its chairman, Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, says he anticipates that lawmakers will try for the third session in a row to pass a law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship at voting booths.
Committee member Rafael AnchÃa, a Dallas Democrat, said he plans to broaden the scope of the investigation beyond the immigration angle and look for things like tampering with voting machines, fraudulent mail-in voting and suppression of voters.
The GOP’s struggle with the immigration issue is playing out here as well. In Craddick’s Interim Charges it’s clear that Craddick, and the GOP in Texas, want to be a player in the immigration fight. While earlier in the week Sen. John Cornyn and Karl Rove urged them to stay out of it.
Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday that while failures at the federal level to address immigration issues have left people frustrated, state lawmakers should not be attempting to fix the problem.
Cornyn, joined by former White House strategist Karl Rove at the East Texas Immigration Summit, said states passing tougher immigration laws focused only on enforcement and not economic impacts.
“Immigration is the federal government’s responsibility, under our Constitution,” Cornyn said. “Piecemeal approaches at the state level deal with only one aspect of the issue.”
This goes to show what a fine line some Republicans in Texas are having to walk on this issue. Cornyn has already lost some of his Hispanic GOP support in The Valley due to his votes on this issue in the US Senate. He’s now moderating his tone, EOW’s guessing that’s all he’s moderating, in an attempt to show that he’s willing to call the GOP’s base’s bluff on this issue. Fromthe comments on a right-wing blog, you can tell there not too concerned:
As for Senator Cornyn, I like the guy, I will most likely vote for the guy, BUT Cornyn has to understand, local and State governments are starting to take action because the Federal Government has failed to fulfill itâ€™s obligations.
I like Cornyn.
I agree with Cornyn most of the time.
Why would I not vote for him?
Besides what choice do they have. While Craddick and the house “wing-nuts” will try to keep all they’re base fired up on this issue so they’ll show up in March and November, John Cornyn will be singing a different tune in order to try and keep his job. From Cornyn’s precious votes on immigration it’s doubtful that the GOP base will believe what he’s saying. They’ll believe he’s just saying it for political reasons. Let’s most Texans who are less ideological on the immigrations issue don’t get suckered by this cynical campaign rhetoric.
DÄ“mos – A Network for Ideas and Action, released a study titled By A Thread: The New Experience of the Middle Class. Full text here [.PDF].
Here are few excerpts form the introduction:
The middle class is a celebrated example of the nationâ€™s belief in success won from hard work. It defines the American way of life and its existence inspires millions to achieve what those who came before them could not. It is also an integral part of the American economy, providing the skilled workers and purchasing power that position the country as a strong force in the global economy. Yet, the middle class did not just emerge. Rather, it was created through deliberate policy measures and investments as well as a strong demand for U.S. products in the years following World War II.
Over the last three decades, the structures that provide opportunity have weakened. For many hard-working Americans, they have disappeared altogether. The activist policies of the postwarera that built the middle class have given way to a laissez-faire approach to the economy. Consequently, dramatic, growing gaps between the rich and poor have emerged. Global competition has grown fiercer and the clout of an organized workforce has been diminished.
Thirty years, why does that sure is a coincience. That’s about the time the “conservative”
reign of terror war on the middle class has bgan. Here’s how Crooks and Liars summarized it:
For me personally, THESE are the real issues that the presidential candidates need to address, not diamonds or pearls or whether the top 1% should have their tax cuts made permanent. This kind of disparity and insecurity for the vast majority of Americans should be considered an abomination in the last remaining superpower.
The numbers to focus on are below the fold.
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Over the last several months during, and because of the Jena 6 story, I became aware of a great blog called Jack and Jill Politics. It bills itself this way:
Jack and Jill Politics is a blog that offers a Black Bourgeoisie perspective on American politics.
A recent post on the emergence of African-American blogs, Crashing the Gates, Darkly, had this to say.
What’s driving black bloggers? There’s a new generation of African-Americans — mostly under 40 — who are frustrated at the lack of leadership and embrace of corruption among our leaders. Young progressives are disappointed and frustrated at baby boomer leaders who have turned away from community support toward crony support. We face a media that ignores real black leaders who are making a difference like Tavis Smiley to speak only to the opportunistic cynic Al Sharpton and the frankly weakened Jesse Jackson. We face a media that by turn distorts or ignores the issues most important to us. The organizations purporting to represent our interests are silent, ineffective or in collusion with those actively working against our interests. Sound familiar?
So through blogging, we’re holding our leaders accountable. We’re exposing socioeconomic bigotry, corporate corruption, media malfeasance and just plain tomfoolery. Or Uncle Tomfoolery. We’re getting organized in the Afrosphere. We’re joining forces with committed and wired new organizations like Color of Change who are bringin’ it. We are working on environmental justice, unequal law enforcement, protecting our right to vote, ensuring equal opportunity, fighting “the war on terror” and “the war on drugs” which look to us more like “the war on brown people” and more.
And baby, we are gettin’ all up in your face. Get used to it.
One theme they seem to be driving home is the one highlighted above. More of this and less of the Al and Jesse show is what they seem to be saying.
It’s a great blog that deserves a visit and a blog that I feel is on the same page and has many of the same goals as EOW.
During the last several election cycles when I’d see Mike Krusee’s campaign signs with the slogan “Proven Conservative Leadership”, falsely crowing about his conservative credentials, it made me wonder why the WCGOP still put up with him. If Democrats in Williamson County knew about the issues in his personal life, surely the leaders and insiders of the WCGOP knew it too. Even if the average “conservative” voter in the county was being deceived by party leaders. So why would the supposed “party of moral values” put up with this in their ranks?
Well, it turns out, that it’s just politics. The reason Krusee was able to hang on for so long was the exact reason why most “conservatives” love to say they hate politicians not of their party, he could bring home the bacon. Getting rid of Krusee would have meant replacing him with a junior, and powerless, state representative. So as long as he kept his power and voters were kept in the dark about the other stuff, then it was a fine arrangement.
The business community in and around HD-52, a huge recipient of Krusee-supplied pork, has allowed him to keep his job for so long. Oh, the hypocrisy. Krusee’s talent of “showing donors the money” helped him stay in power so long, despite his other issues. But with his pork power coming to an end, even if he was reelected in 2008, it was time for him to go.
His power came from being the committee chair of a powerful House committee – first education, then transportation. It was from that perch that the deals were made and the bacon was brought home. With Krusee on the outs with House Speaker Tom Craddick, and too toxic for Craddick, or a new GOP speaker to keep on as chair of transportation or any other committee, his power for pork was essentially gone. With his power gone, and his loss all but assured if he ran in 2008, the WCGOP probably sent messages, not necessarily hidden, that it was time for him to move on. This way they will at least have a chance in 2008.
Here are the comments of long time WCGOP boss John Gordon regarding Krusee, which help highlight this:
Gordon also credited Krusee with working – again, often behind the scenes – in getting the Round Rock Higher Education Center built and opened two years ago.
“His personal relationship with [then-House speaker] Tom Craddick got us money for Texas State,” Gordon said. “It was the first year Craddick was speaker and we were $5 billion to $8 billion short in the state budget. We were cutting back everywhere but it was Mike Krusee and his persuasion to Tom Craddick that Williamson County was the largest county in Texas without a state university.
“Without Mike Krusee, we would not have Texas State University.”
(Interesting use of “then-House Speaker”). Yes, Krusee has long been known for his behind the scenes work and his personal relationships. With his powers of persuasion over Craddick, or a new House leader, no longer likely, we’ll no longer have Mike Krusee to kick around.
The WCGOP is now in a bit of a pickle in in HD-52, with Krusee having saddled their party as being the “tolling party“, and a district that’s quickly trending Democratic. What are they going to do, renounce toll roads and come out for raising the gas tax? Not likely. In the WCGOP’s style of unaccountable government they never thought they’d have to actually account for their disastrous governing, so soon, in an election cycle. They probably never thought a politician that once had such a bright future could fade so fast. Long ago with Mike Krusee the WCGOP traded morals for pork and now they’re left holding his baggage.
Text of email:
Less than 24 hours after we announced our official endorsement of Diana Maldonado for HD-52, the Republicans are once again using trickery to hold on to their waning power. Yesterday Rep. Mike Krusee announced that he has changed his mind and will not be running again after all.
Though we would like to believe that Annieâ€™s List scared him out of the water, it is more likely that, given his extreme vulnerability, he was offered a plum appointment to the Texas Transportation Commission. Their modus operandi will now be to replace him with a fresher faced, less corrupt, Speaker Craddick rubber stamp.
Sound familiar? This is exactly what they did with Todd Baxter in HD-48 last election cycle. In that case, Annieâ€™s List candidate Donna Howard stepped into the special election and mopped the floor with the Republicanâ€™s anointed successor – a bellwether for great things to come for Democratic women in 2006.
The Republicans can try to sweep their record of failed leadership under the rug by throwing Krusee in the closet but it wonâ€™t change the fact that voters are sick and tired of their attempts to subvert the electoral process.
While they are playing musical chairs with their rubber stamps, Diana Maldonado will be offering a message of change and the hope for open and honest government and transparency in the public policy process.
SAY NO TO THESE REPUBLICAN ANTICS AND HELP DIANA MALDONADO FILL HER WAR CHEST TODAY TO TAKE ON THE NEXT RUBBER STAMP TOMORROW!
Nice turn of phrase, “..playing musical chairs wiht their rubber stamps..” Good stuff.
Recently I heard someone from outside of Williamson County refer to the current political situation in the county by saying, “what you have, more than likely, is a Republican political machine“. A political machine is defined as:
..an unofficial system of a political organization based on patronage, the spoils system, “behind-the-scenes” control, and longstanding political ties within the structure of a representative democracy.
That same person also stated that those on the commissioners court are probably friends and work in concert with each other. These comments were made by someone not necessarily familiar with the nuances of Williamson County’s political machine, but political machines in general.
The comments were made in reference to combating the status quo – one-party, unaccountable government – in Williamson County. The only thing to quibble with in the statement may be regarding how friendly the commissioners actually are with each other. The final assessment was that the only way to break up the machine is to get at least one Democrat elected to the court so someone can get in there and find out what’s really going on.
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Citing the fact that the mental health unit was not part of the “core duties” of the Constable, as set out by the legislature and the Texas Constitution, the Appeals Court ruled in the counties favor. Full opinion here. This will just add more fuel to Griffin’s many opponents inside the WCGOP. From the beginning of this fight it’s never been about right and wrong. It’s been a vendetta by some in the county’s government against Gary Griffin. What really caused this all we may never know, and it probably won’t end until one or all of the players are gone from county office.
Here’s the AAS article, Appeals court sides with Williamson County in constable’s suit.
On Hidden Agendas and Political Paybacks
A Statement from Diana Maldonado, Democratic Candidate for House District 52, on the resignation of Craddick Lieutenant Mike Krusee
People have grown increasingly suspicious of politics. Unfortunately, their fears are well founded, and todayâ€™s announcement from State Representative Mike Krusee that he plans to step down from office effective at the end of his term in January 2009 will only serve to reinforce their suspicions.
Despite widespread rumors of political payback for his steadfast support of toll road privatization plans, Mike Krusee failed to state why he is stepping down, how he will be rewarded, or what backroom meetings took place in the planning of this announcement, just days before official candidate filing opens.
Itâ€™s this type of political arrogance that has led people to be justifiably suspicious of the Governorâ€™s toll road plans. Krusee, the lead proponent for the Trans Texas Corridor, has ignored the votersâ€™ demand for information before. He was the only Representative out of 150 members to oppose a moratorium on toll road privatization which would have provided voters time to gain a better understanding of how billions of dollars would be spent, how development rights would be handed over, and how the face of our communities would be changed forever.
The goals he couldnâ€™t reach legislatively, we are left to assume, he will pursue administratively. After all, the same disrespect he showed for voters in the past has been reinforced with his failure to answer questions today.
Voters will have to wait until November of next year to exercise the ultimate accountability. When that day comes, I believe they will speak loud and clear for the type of open, transparent government that has been denied them.
Full press release here [.DOC].
Krusee Won’t Seek Reelection
Mike Krusee, the Republican state representative from Round Rock says he won’t seek reelection next year. He’s apparently talked to House speaker Tom Craddick about it; expect an official announcement this afternoon.
This is not a surprise, or course. This is an admission that the state and local GOP knew Krusee would lose. How this GOP dirty trick will play out we’ll just have to see.
[UPDATE]: AAS reporting he will finish out his term.
State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, will not seek re-election next year.
Krusee, 48, is set to announce his retirement, effective at the end of his term in January of 2009, in a written statement released later today.
Krusee, who had served in the House since 1993, had been rumored to be in line for a gubernatorial appointment, possibly to the Texas Transportation Commission, because of his legislative work on toll roads. But a source close to the situation says state law forbids the appointment of a legislator to any job requiring Senate confirmation during his term in office.
That would mean Krusee would not be eligible for most state appointments until the end of his term.
[UPDATE II]: Kruseee’s statement [.PDF].
Text of endorsement:
Annie’s List Endorsement
Diana Maldonado is a well-known champion for public education and community development. Elected city-wide in 2003 and 2006, she was the first Latina to serve as school board president in Round Rock ISDâ€™s history. During her tenure it became one of the highest ranked and fastest growing school districts in Texas.
Diana is an award-winning government efficiency expert with over 20 years experience in the Texas Comptroller’s office. She also serves as an active member of the Hispanic Womenâ€™s Network of Texas and Executive Women in State Government. In 2000, while working full-time and raising two teenagers as a single mother, she graduated magna cum laude from St. Edwardâ€™s University having earned her degree in business management.
By contrast, the incumbent chairs the House Transportation Committee and is the architect of the boondoggled Trans Texas Corridor. While doing the bidding for Rick Perry and foreign companies seeking to own and operate the TTC for exorbitant fees, Krusee has been exposed time and again cutting deals in the shadows.
The incumbentâ€™s history proves him to be one of the most partisan and conservative members of the House. While serving on the Redistricting Committee in 2003, he cast a key vote for the illegal mid-decade redistricting plan. While wasting time and precious resources doing Tom Delayâ€™s bidding, he also voted to cut over 230,000 children from the Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Plan.
Annieâ€™s List believes that HD-52 is a very viable district due to the rapid growth and changing demographics which are a result of working families leaving the expensive Austin housing market, as well as an influx of Dell employees. What was once a conservative stronghold is now showing shades of blue and purple throughout the district. These new residents took note of Kruseeâ€™s dismal record and delivered him a devastating blow in 2006 (garnering just 50.6% of the vote) against an opponent who spent less than $10,000.
Diana enters the 2008 race with a political base in the largest city in the district, Round Rock, and with a record of delivering positive change for her constituents. She has undergone Annieâ€™s Listâ€™s candidate training, hired a solid professional team and is on the phone raising money. Last month, Annieâ€™s List hired her campaign manager, Genevieve Van Cleave, who is working hard to build critical campaign infrastructure more than a year out from the election.
This will be a hard fought campaign but Annieâ€™s List has proven time and again that we can defeat entrenched incumbents with efficient and professional campaigns that deliver a message for change. We enthusiastically support Diana Maldonado and ask that you, our statewide network of likeminded donors, do the same!
Please click here to support Diana Maldonado with a generous contribution today!
Diana MUST fill her war chest before the next campaign finance reporting deadline on December 31st. Opinion leaders and pundits will view that first report of 2008 as a crucial benchmark in determining Dianaâ€™s viability against her well-funded incumbent.
Help out the campaign. HD-52 needs Diana Maldonado’s leadership.
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