Late to the party, and who might be running in 2010

Posted in 2010 Primary, 81st Legislature, Election 2010, Uncategorized at 3:00 pm by wcnews

Like we need an opportunistic ‘ol US Senator to overstate the obvious about how worthless our state’s governor is. EOW’s been saying Perry’s and the Texas GOP can’t lead or govern for years now.

Gardner Selby has an article in today’s AAS, Session over, but the politics of 2010 elections set to pick up, about all the “race rumors” as we now turn our focus to the March 2010 primary races.

Before the end-of-session imbroglio, few expected a post-session breather from politics.

Democratic consultant Christian Archer suggested that candidates would shortly hunt ways to gauge and raise their appeal. “There’s probably a 30-minute respite for people to go home, say hello to their families again,” Archer said. “And then people will start talking” about campaigns.

The cast of gubernatorial wannabes could widen — extending among Republicans to a longshot, state Rep. Leo Berman of Tyler, who’s been frustrated at legislative inaction on proposals related to illegal immigration. Berman said he intends to declare his candidacy for governor around July 4.

Among Democrats, John Montford, a former state senator, has been mentioned as a gubernatorial prospect, while there’s also talk of White or Sharp shifting sights from the Senate race to governor before candidate filings late this year. Archer said his client, former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, is similarly weighing a try for governor.

Watson has been mentioned for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general. Sen. Royce West of Dallas said he’s considering several statewide offices including attorney general, and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio is expected to say soon whether she’s trying for governor.

Meantime, Abbott has let it be known he intends to run for lieutenant governor if Dewhurst bows out, presumably to run for the U.S. Senate. Republican AG prospects include Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, who’s been exploring a run, Dale Wainwright, a Texas Supreme Court justice, and state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas.

A Democratic House member also might leap for statewide office. Reps. Rafael Anchía of Dallas and Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, often floated as politically potent, each said he’s intent on re-election, though Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, a former assistant attorney general, said he’ll consider running statewide.

Savoring Democratic gains in recent House elections, Gallego said: “Before, you were beating your head against the wall” by running as a Democrat statewide. “There’s more enthusiasm now about a statewide ticket than there’s been in years.”

Should be an interesting several months leading up to the filing deadline for March 2010 Primary, which is January 4, 2010.

Post-session lists have begun

Posted in 2010 Primary, 81st Legislature, Around The State, Election 2010, The Lege, Uncategorized at 12:46 pm by wcnews

The first one came out was Monday from Letters from Texas, 10 Best Texas Legislators. Here’s the description of how they were chosen.

This cross-partisan ten best legislators list started as a conversation between Republican consultant Ted Delisi and me - we wondered what would happen, in choosing legislative standouts, if a Republican judged the Democrats, and a Democrat judged the Republicans. Plus, why the hell should Texas Monthly have all the fun?

We hope you think the result is interesting, both in choices and approach. Ted Delisi’s picks are in red and Harold Cook’s are in blue. We didn’t lobby each other on the choices. We hope it’s thought-provoking and promotes discussion and comments. To my fellow Democrats - it takes some cojones for a Republican to contribute content to a Democratic blog. Please be polite to the company, we want him to come back from time to time. Of course, feel free to ridicule me all you want, same as usual. -HC

They’re list includes John Carona, Garnet Coleman, Craig Eiland, and Todd Smith. The AP has a list of Movers and shakers from the 81st Lege.

A battle between Republicans and Democrats over a voter identification bill had state senators debating late into the night early in the 140-day session. The House hit the snooze button and left the same measure alone until the final weeks, when division caused delays and logjams that left lawmakers scrambling to save hundreds of bills.

In the months in between, both chambers skirted votes on major partisan policy issues including embryonic stem cell research and widely passed a $182 billion state budget for 2010-2011.

Here are some lawmakers who shaped the tone and direction of the session.

The list includes Tommy Williams, Joe Straus, and Jim Dunnam to name a few. The DMN has already this list of possible North Texas targets in 2010 already, Drawing a bead on local-option foes.

Tarrant County transportation backers are talking about running political challengers against state legislators who opposed the local-option transportation plan, which died this week. Reports Gordon Dickson with the Star-Telegram on a meeting of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition.

Their list of targets includes Jodie Laubenberg, Jerry Madden, Rob Orr, Ken Paxton, Burt Solomons, Marc Veasey. There’s likely to be many more lists to come in the weeks to come.


Diana Maldonado, Freshman of the Year

Posted in 81st Legislature, Good Stuff, HD-52, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 3:56 pm by wcnews

Williamson County’s first term Democratic state Rep. Diana Maldonado (Round Rock), was named the Legislative Study Group’s Freshman of the Year. Via BOR, House Democratic Caucuses Name Freshmen of the Year.

All four of our TexBlog PAC endorsed candidates were honored named as an outstanding legislator today. We are proud to see Robert Miklos, Joe Moody, Diana Maldonado and Chris Turner awarded for their hard work. As an inaugural round of endorsements, they have set the bar very high.

In addition the House Democrats gave an award to Kirk England as a “Tenured Freshman of the Year” because this session marked his first session as a Democrat in the House.

This from a Williamson County Democratic Party email:

In her first session at the Texas Legislature Rep. Maldonado has accomplished great things for Williamson County. She filed 17 bills and got 6 of them passed through both the House and the Senate. One of those bills was HB 2805, which provides funding to the East Williamson County Higher Education Center so that they can start the Renewable Energy Training Institute. For more info click here. Another bill, HB 1789 will allow two WilCo communities to use the hotel occupancy tax to improve and expand recreational facilities.

In addition to all of the bills she was able to get passed, Rep. Maldonado also worked to secure $10 million to ensure that FM 1460 in Round Rock and $17 million in the appropriations bill for three higher education institutions in the county.

Congratulation to Diana Maldonaodo! It was a great first session for her, definitely a solid foundation for her to build on.

Big three proud of session, Coleman offers a response

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Redistricting, The Lege, Uncategorized at 1:53 pm by wcnews


As I wrap this up, let me remind everyone of a few things.

First, Texans woke up this morning with a balanced budget, increased funding for education, and a $9 billion Rainy Day fund that remains untouched. That is not the norm across the country.

Second, we still one of the strongest economies in the nation thanks to policies we have implemented over the past several years. Texas still leads the nation in exports, job creation and Fortune 500 companies and has been the No. 1 relocation destination in the U.S. for the past four years.

Our fiscally-conservative approaches have made Texas strong, and the work done by the legislature in this session will keep those principles in place, positively affecting the lives of everyday Texans.

That is the real story of this session. Now it’s time to keep moving Texas forward.


    Other key legislation passed by the Texas Senate includes:

  • SB 3-Reforms public school accountability system
  • SB 9-Establishes framework to create more flagship universities in Texas
  • SB 11-Cracks down on gang-related crime
  • SB 19-Small business tax cut
  • SB 1443-Limits tuition increases at four-year public universities

Straus [.pdf]:

    The list of legislative accomplishments touted by the Speaker included:

  • Adopted the 2010-2011 biennial budget which reduces general revenue spending by 1.9 percent.
  • Unanimous passage of new education reforms that focus on student growth and achievement to rate schools.
  • A $1.9 billion dollar increase in public education money.
  • A $1.2 billion dollar increase in higher education funding.
  • Seed money to lay the groundwork for additional Tier One Texas universities.
  • Added $250 million in financial aid to make college affordable for 35,000 more students.
  • Reformed the Top Ten Percent rule to give the University of Texas more flexibility.
  • Tax cut which will benefit approximately 40,000 Texas small businesses.
  • Protected $9.1 billion dollars in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has a response [.pdf] to, not only what was accomplished, but also to the missed opportunities:

  • CHIP
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Tuition relief
  • Eliminating the Trans Texas Corridor
  • Insurance reform (TDI Sunset)
  • Utility rates
  • Medicaid reform

The big three are going to try and spin this as good even though it was probably a hair shy of a disaster. But they’ve got reelection and elections campaigns coming up so they have to try and make it sound like were able to lead on some issues. There’s a long way to go, from the filing deadline, through the primaries, to see who survives the general election. Then we can whether the balance of power shifts one way or another in the house, start speculating about who will hold key offices and positions, and see who will control what as we head into a super-partisan redistricting session.

It’s over, for now.

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Election 2010, The Lege at 11:49 am by wcnews

The best news of the day in the legislature was that Rep. Edumund Kuempel (R-Sequin) was back on the House floor, a mere 3 weeks after he suffered a heart attack at the Capitol.

Both chambers gaveled out of the legislative session yesterday, Sine Die. The House went first, and the Senate stayed in a little longer, not approving the House’s safety net “fix” and leaveing TxDOT and TDI on the Sunset chopping block, Chaos in last day of legislative session; special session could be coming.

The surprise breakdown began developing in the late afternoon, after House leaders said they planned to include a safety net to keep the agencies open in a resolution concerning other matters, lawmakers said.

The resolution was necessary because the House failed to approve a safety-net bill to keep the agencies in operation by a midnight Sunday deadline.

The problem with the House’s resolution, in senators’ eyes, was that it didn’t address $2 billion in bond money.

Voters approved the bonds, and there must be a statutory trigger to allow TxDOT to authorize them.

Expressing concerns about the legality of such a House maneuver, the Senate approved and sent to the House a resolution designed to fix the problem with the bonds.

“We sent it over. … We were talking with them. Then they just adjourned,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. “There was nothing else we could do.”

Usually, the House sends a delegation to advise senators that the House is about to adjourn for good on the last night; the Senate also notifies the House.

No delegation from the House was ever sent.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the Senate learned the House had left for good from the House Web site.

Angry Senate leaders blasted the House for quitting about 6 p.m. without fixing the problem. Senators worked into the night looking for a solution — without success.

They adjourned about 9 p.m., after a heated debate, saying they expect that Gov. Rick Perry will call them back into a special legislative session to address the problem.

“What the House did was they wrecked the TxDOT budget, and that would have put billions of dollars’ worth of projects at risk and tens of thousands of jobs at risk,” Ogden said.

House Speaker Joe Straus could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday.

A perfect end to a leaderless session. Kuff and BOR have more. While a special session is likely Gov. Rick Perry doesn’t seem ready too eager to call one just yet.

Allison Castle, Perry’s press secretary, said Monday’s action — or lack thereof — “will not impact the business of state agencies.”

“These agencies will continue to conduct business as usual and serve the people of Texas,” she said. “This has been a successful legislative session, and there is still important business to take care of during the next 20 days of evaluating legislation that has passed this session.”

And Democrats know there’s been no leadership all session.

At a news conference after the Senate adjourned, Democrats blasted the abrupt adjournment by the Republican-led Legislature as a sign of its failure to deal adequately with many issues this session, including children’s health insurance, insurance reform, prekindergarten funding and limits on public university tuition.

“We’ve had a complete and total failure of leadership,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

In many ways, the action on the last day was emblematic of the entire session: visions of major overhauls being whittled down to more modest changes or no change at all. And angst and chaos in between.

Those in power were able to skirt all the major issues that needed to be dealt with. Thanks to the federal stimulus package passed by President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress, the Texas GOP was able to use that money to put a band aid on all the serious problems, (like the Governor’s Mansion), in this state as the 2010 elections approach. Many of the same issues that were there at the beginning of session are still there - school finance, health care, CHIP, transportation, unemployment insurance. The Texas GOP is just betting and hoping those issues won’t blow up before the primaryand general election in 2010.

GOP senators blamed the house for the way the session ended and are practically begging the governor to call a special session, and the Democrats are right to be skeptical about what would be on the agenda, Lawmakers adjourn regular session.

A sticking point at the finish of the 140-day session was a bitter dispute between the House and Senate over $2 billion in transportation bond funding that the House failed to pass before gaveling out of session.

Angry Republican senators said it was preferable to quit and let Perry call the Legislature back into a 30-day special session to continue the transportation department and other state agencies and pass the bonds.

Several Democrats argued against the move, saying it was dangerous to begin the shutdown process of major agencies.

“We have left a big hole and failed the people of the state of Texas,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, leader of the Senate Democrats. “The only thing I can say is we’ve had a complete and total failure of leadership.”

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, blamed the House for the 11th-hour unraveling of the session — saying the chamber acted irresponsibly by adjourning sine die — the Latin phrase used to describe the final day of the session.


Van de Putte said it was foolish to allow tension between the two chambers to derail the session. Both the transportation agency and the Texas Department of Insurance would face a shutdown by September 2010 unless Perry calls the Legislature back into session to reauthorize their existence, Senate Republicans said. One Republican senator said Perry could issue an executive order to keep the agencies running.

“I don’t think the people of the state of Texas care if the Legislature is doing a ping-pong across the rotunda of blame, of ‘no you did it, no you did it’ ” Van de Putte said. “I’m afraid that we are shirking our responsibility.”

She and other Democrats questioned whether Republicans really wanted a special session to pass a voter identification bill. The Republicans said that hasn’t been discussed.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said senators wanted Perry to call the Legislature back.

“We want a special session,” Ogden said. “We want the TxDOT budget fixed.”

Ogden said the failure to approve the $2 billion in road funding would have a multiplying effect, meaning that $7 billion to $8 billion in projects could be jeopardized.

“(Perry) needs to say he’s going to do it because right now the budget of TxDot is wrecked and people are going to start losing their jobs, so the sooner we get it resolved the better it’s going to be for Texas.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said most senators wanted the transportation bonds passed.

“We’re all upset about it,” Dewhurst said. “That came as a little bit of a surprise.”

It’s great to see Van de Putte speaking out for the Democrats and keeping the focus on the lack of leadership in this state. Which brings up the question of if there’s a specials session, when might it be called? If voter suppression is on the GOP’s agenda in a special session they need to get that done soon. Since it would still need to go thorugh pre-clearance. With the primary only 9 months away they would need to get it done soon to have their voter suppression plan in place by then. Stay tuned.


The end game

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Elections, The Lege, Uncategorized at 11:47 am by wcnews

TxDOT Sunset is dead for this session. The only question left if will TxDOT live for two more years or will it take a special session to revive it. Burka does a great job of laying out the politics of this, A way out of the carnage.

It is possible for to salvage the safety-net bill. It will require a 2/3 vote to suspend the rules in the House. That margin does not exist at this moment. Democrats are angry that the safety-net bill pushed back a review of the workers’ comp system for four years — this in spite of the widespread recognition that the system is broken and requires fixing. If the rules can be suspended, the safety-net bill would likely pass with a simple majority, and the review of agencies whose Sunset bills failed to pass could be put off to 2011.

But the Democrats need an incentive to lift their objections to the safety-net bill. Well, they have a bill on life support that they would like to see become law: the CHIP expansion. That bill too probably has more than a majority in support but less than the 2/3 necessary to suspend the rules.

So the makings of a deal are present. The Republicans want the safety-net Sunset bill. The Democrats want CHIP. If the parliamentary rules allow it, a combined motion to suspend the rules on both bills and pass both bills has a chance to get the necessary 2/3 margin.

If the Democrats continue on the destructive course they have followed since the beginning of the marathon chub, they will put themselves at risk. Governor Perry is not likely to call a special session on a purely political issue like Voter I.D. But he will have to cause a special session if the safety-net bill fails. And that gives him a chance to add Voter I.D. to the call. The way out is to suspend the rules and pass both bills. The Republicans get the safety-net bill, which they want, and Democrats get CHIP, which they want.

Most involved would rather there not be a special session, so it’s likely there will be a deal. CHIP expansion in needed too, but to avoid a special, in which voter suppression could com up again, the the safety net bill will have to pass before Midnight. It’s been a while since Texas has had a Midnight Sine Die, and this one may last that long.

BOR has more on how this may all play out, Speak Straus’ Absolute Power.We’ll just have to wait and see if a deal can be reached or someone blinks. Summer in Austin is nice, but it’s much nicer without the Legislature.

McBlogger does a great job of explaining his support for Sen. John Carona’s filibuster, which EOW agress with 100%.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all in love with Carona now. I think his alliance with Nichols is unholy and his decision to filibuster HB 300 is based only on the elimination of the local option, not on the transportation bank. Or privatization in general or converting existing, paid-for highways into private tollways. Or the fact that the reco’s of the Sunset Committee (like electing TxDOT officials) has been completely left out. Stripped, in part, by Carona himself. Yes, the loss of local option in conference is irony at it’s finest. Still, if the result is the same (the death of HB 300) then it’s all good.

The funniest thing about all this is the Republican opposition to the local option, to giving the voters a direct say in how we fund transportation in this state. They’ve made it very clear by opposing this that their primary concern is not what’s best for Texans… it’s enriching investment bankers by privatizing roads.

So, here’s to hoping that either the House kills HB 300, or Carona does. It’s a bad bill and it truly needs to die.

This was a bad bill with or without the local option gas tax.


Give ’em Hell John!! Carona to filibuster

Posted in 81st Legislature, Good Stuff, Privatization, Road Issues, The Lege, Transportation, Uncategorized at 2:32 pm by wcnews

Via the AusChron, Carona Says He’ll Filibuster TxDOT Sunset Bill. Text of press release below:

Why I Will Filibuster the TxDOT Sunset Bill, by Senator John Carona

There is an old Italian saying: Dai nemici mi guardo io, dagli amici mi guardi Iddio. It means “I can protect myself from my enemies; may God protect me from my friends!”

It’s no secret by now that the conference committee report contents were not what I was led to believe, and that the report was signed and filed before I was ever shown the decisions. What we have is a deal negotiated in bad faith. I can handle the personal and professional insult involved; after all, there is another Italian saying:

Quando finisce la partita, i pedoni, le torri, i cavalli, i vescovi, i due re e le due regine tutti vanno nello stesso scatolo.

When the chess game is over, the pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all go back into the same box. We will recover and work together again, and the Senate will survive.

Unfortunately, the practical effects of HB 300 for Texas transportation are negative and still must be addressed. For example, in the absence of the Local Option Transportation Act, other provisions included in either the House or Senate bill but discarded by conferees such as Local Participation take on new importance and should have been adopted. Had I known LOTA would be stripped, I would have pressed that point.

If HB 300 dies, the only real loss is the enabling legislation to issue Proposition 12 bonds. Frankly, given the debt service entailed over time, there is a good argument to putting off this debt until we can pass legislation reducing or eliminating transportation diversions, legislation I filed, but mysteriously came to a stop in the House.

It further appears that the Senate conferees ended up giving away the store. The fatal flaw in HB 300 is buried in the process for determining whether the state or the MPO picks the projects. HB 300 has the Transportation Commission developing criteria for selection and placement of projects in the Transportation Plan, which is good. However, for the major funding categories the Commission must then use the MPO’s priorities unless they conflict with federal law or rule. Finally, the department “shall use the planning organizations’ project lists to create the statewide transportation program and budget.” Through these steps, found on page 38 of the side by side, the conferees complete the transfer of decision making authority from the state level to the MPO, which in my view is the wrong direction.

Accordingly, here is how I will proceed today.

First, I will read the bill to the body. HB 300 on conference committee report is 344 pages long, which is even bigger than the infamous HB 3588 by 10%. Given that the House bill came to the Senate with over 100 amendments stapled to the back and not rolled in, there has never been a compiled version that makes sense, entire sections of law are repealed by handwritten notes in the margins, and we have barely had the bill long enough to absorb so much as the table of contents, you can expect this effort to take a while.

In that process, we will explore a few of the very curious provisions of this bill. For example, why would there be a provision inserted after Senator Hinojosa was appointed to the committee that addresses a TCEQ permit currently in litigation and if passed, I am told would put a constituent of Senator Lucio’s out of business?

Why if LOTA was so impossible, would there be a provision appearing for the first time in the conference committee report that enables the El Paso County Commissioners, without a vote of the citizens, to increase vehicle registration fees by an additional $50?

If rail transit in North Texas is too much for the House to vote on, why would the conference committee report include a first-ever provision directing the route of a rail line serving Irving?

Second, I will describe for my colleagues in detail the development and content of the Rail North Texas proposal, so they can fully understand and appreciate the resolve of local leaders, businesses, and taxpayers in North Texas to have this opportunity.

Third, I will address the knee-jerk, self-professed tax watchdogs whose outcry on the local option transportation act betrays either ignorance of the session or a callous use of LOTA as a straw man to garner headlines and addresses for their mailing lists. I will do that by reminding my colleagues of the content, analysis, and fiscal impact of legislation I proposed that would end diversions and index the motor fuels tax.

Fourth, I will share with each Senator the projects in their districts that are unfunded, and that this legislation will do little to address.

Fifth, I will return to the reason LOTA is so important, the state of transportation funding today. There are many resources that detail the funding crisis, such as the 2030 Report and the Governor’s Business Council report, and I look forward to disseminating that information.

Of course, Texas is not alone in these needs, and there are voluminous reports from at least two national select committees that shed light on our failing infrastructure finance systems.

I hope at that point I have not run out of time in the session because I have some other items to discuss, but I am inspired by the memory of Bill Meier, who from the desk right behind where I sit today, talked for 43 hours. Let’s see how I do.

DMN’s Transportation blog has a great wrap up of how the local option went down, Post-mortem: Local option tax may be dead, but need for funds is not. It has quotes from Carona, Perry and Pickett. The also have this, for Joe Pickett’s take on what the bill accomplishes, here’s HB 300 Highlights-1.pdf he sent me last night. There’s a bunch of bad stuff in HB 300.

EOW’s is behind you 100%. HB 300 is a horrible bill and should not be allowed to pass. McBlogger has more. Also call your state representatives and let them know to voter against HB 300.


Truitt says local option tax is dead

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Had Enough Yet?, Privatization, Road Issues, Taxes, The Lege, Transportation, Uncategorized at 6:21 pm by wcnews

Via the DMN’s Transportation blog, Local option appears dead.

Sen. John Carona was unable to get enough support for the Local Option Transportation Act among Senate and House negotiators, dooming the provision when the TxDOT sunset bill goes to floor votes tomorrow.


Among conferees on the Senate side, only Carona and Kirk Watson of Austin held out for the plan. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Glenn Hegar of Katy signed a conference report without the local option provision.

Four of the five House conferees signed as well. They were Linda Harper-Brown of Irving, Joe Pickett of El Paso, Wayne Smith of Baytown and Carl Isett of Lubbock. Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio was the only House conferee to support local option in the end.

The parliamentary moves that could save the plan now are way beyond Hail Marys. Consider this cause lost, at least for this lawmaking session.


Where was top leadership on this issue? Not hard to figure. Their appointees to the conference committee could have guaranteed that the loca-option (sic) provision remained. Yet the deck was stacked with indifferent-to-hostile people.

It’s a shame that the most hostile of all was from the heart of this metro area. Putting Linda Harper-Brown of Irving on the House conference committee poisoned the bill’s chances. Speaker Joe Straus send a message about his intentions when he named her.

Obviously the DMN doesn’t read EOW because we’ve been saying for years that there is no leadership in this state, especially on the transportation issue. Yes putting Harper-Brown, who is unlikely to be around next session, on the conference committee was a particularly bad move.

Earlier this year when EOW wrote the post, Enough with the half-measures and tinkering, it was obvious that there was no leadership, or the will, to do anything different than “toll everything” plan that Perry and the rest of those who have the power over transportation in Texas want to do.

Vicki Truitt is mad, and Carona probably is too, but they’re Republicans. The can’t understand that no matter how “decent” they deem this tax cut to be, they can’t get enough politicians in this state to go out on a limb, and vote for this bill. This bill, which they say, will only put a tax increase up to a decision of the people. They only have themselves and their party to blame. They’ve so poisoned and now we are all stuck, and somewhere Grover Norquist is smiling. And all that’s left for Republicans like Truitt and Carona, is well….you reap what you sow.

From the comments at the DMN:

Ok, I am sick and tired of the road/traffic situation. Does anyone know of a solution to fix this? I do not mind paying an extra 10 cents a gal., but this was not even about that. Just to give us the right to debate it and vote over it in our own communities. I was really happy to hear about everyone going to Austin and tracking down the politicians. I think that everyone here is sick and tired of the situation. The smog, spending a huge chunk of your day sitting on the freeway. Or side roads.

There is a fix for this and it’s raising and indexing the statewide gas tax. But what that would take is a bunch of new, and/or reformed, elected officials that are committed to fixing our entire transportation system in Texas. But those elected officials will need to know, from the people, that they will be voted out if this issue in NOT fixed! And that even if we have to pay a little more in taxes it’s not a problem as long as the issue is resolved.

I’ll give Carona and Truitt credit for putting themselves out there and trying to help their constituents. But this was doomed to fail from the beginning and there never was a certainty that Gov. Perry would allow sign it into law. Maybe the best thing that will come of this is that some more people will get involved because of this issue, especially in a major metropolitan area like DFW, and shine more light on this issue.

Let’s hope that Sen. Carona keeps his promise that he would kill the TxDOT Sunset bill if the local options didn’t pass. Which would lead to another good thing coming out of this. That would allow another two years to try and reform TxDOT and Texas’ transportation problems. Maybe this time it can be taken seriously and we can actually get the problems fixed.

Session update

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010, Redistricting, The Budget, The Lege, Uncategorized at 10:43 am by wcnews

Yesterday the house passed the budget and it now awaits Gov. Perry’s signature. And many other bills are still pending, House, Senate appoint plethora of conference committees to iron out bill differences.

As legislative leaders scrambled to save important bills from a procedural death Friday, the fates of several state agencies remained unclear, with Senate and House negotiators remaining at loggerheads on several issues.

Friday was the House deadline to pass legislation or appoint conference committees to resolve differences between the two chambers.

Late in the day, lawmakers said they expected to have a record number of conference committees working on more than 100 Senate-amended House bills that were threatened by a parliamentary logjam Thursday. That means legislators will be working through the weekend to negotiate the bills and return them to their respective chambers for final votes.

In daily developments, the House on Friday:

Approved a $182 billion budget; it now goes to Gov. Rick Perry.

The DMN has a great article on special sessions, Perry’s special session is risky, but that hasn’t stopped him before.

Most governors get more than they bargained for in a special session. Some have been politically disastrous.

Gov. Mark White, in trying to cajole reluctant lawmakers to pass a sales-tax hike to support education reforms, tried to reassure them. “Raise taxes and blame me,” he famously counseled them in the summer of 1986. “I’ll explain it.”

They did. He tried. And he lost the November election.

“Special sessions rarely go as the governor plans,” said Chuck McDonald, an assistant press secretary to Gov. Ann Richards.

“They are painful.”

Perry’s been lucky so far with special sessions so far, at as far as reelection goes, we’ll have to see if he tempts fate again. They also have this chart of Governors and special sessions.

Two more from the DMN. This article updating education legislation this session, Education bills pass in Legislature’s final days. But another DMN article was most interesting on how the coalitions are changing in the Texas House and what it means for redistricting next session. Rural, urban lawmakers unite in face of growing suburban clout.

Social conservative Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and liberal firebrand Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, stood arm-in-arm in the House recently, supporting a bill that would use taxes on smokeless tobacco to lure doctors to underserved areas by helping pay off their student loans.

The odd-couple pairing was no accident – the bill helped both rural and inner-city Texans, and without one another’s support, it could have faced longer odds in a chamber controlled by suburban lawmakers and the first House speaker from a metropolitan area in years.

On that and several issues, most notably the top 10 percent rule, rural and urban lawmakers have stood together in this session, a surprising alliance driven by changing demographics that yield common interests.

Another reason: Rural lawmakers have seen their clout steadily decline as cities and suburbs have grown.

“When I first got here 10 years ago, over 70 percent of the members were just one generation off the farm,” said Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon. “Each year, we get a little further down the road – they can all still remember Grandma living on the farm, but they’re one generation further from seeing her.”


Suburban and urban members, meanwhile, say that the current focus on growing communities is justified, and that a forward-looking approach to issues such as energy will help maintain and manage that growth.

Carrollton Republican Rep. Burt Solomons, chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, said that suburban members are “sensitive to our rural brethren” but that policies should be balanced to support growing constituencies and future Texans.

The election of San Antonio Republican Joe Straus as speaker, he said, was an important step in that direction this session.

Suburban lawmakers point out that often, social or political issues hinge more on party than geography. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, said she is philosophically parallel to Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, except when it comes to water allocation.

Further steps down that road could be taken next session, when redistricting will address population growth in the suburbs and potentially remove seats from rural areas – at least two, by Hardcastle’s prediction.

Texas may be gearing up for a suburban backlash next session in redistricing. Should make for a real fun 2011 legislative session.


Carona says no local option no TxDOT Sunset Bill, Pickett says votes aren’t there

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Road Issues, The Lege, Transportation, Uncategorized at 10:26 pm by wcnews

From the way the two camps are positioning themselves - Carona (Senate), Pikcett (House) - there may not be a deal on the TxDOT Sunset bill, HB 300, before the Midnight deadline on Saturday. This from Vaqueros & Wonkeros, Pickett gives lobbyists an earful; Carona says TxDOT bill’s fate is in Pickett’s hands.

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, gave some transportation lobbyists what-for today after he said he found out they were collecting signatures on a petition he considered misleading.

“I swore a lot, and I apologize to my mother, but I do not apologize to them. They deserved it,” said Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.


Pickett said some lobbyists were asking House members to sign a petition they said he supported to give consideration to the local tax and fee option. He said the tactic was misleading.

“I got mad,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

He said leaving in the local tax and fee option could result in the whole bill dying in the House. There are too many important reforms in the measure to let the whole thing fail, Pickett said.


[State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas] said the Senate has compromised, lowering the fees communities could charge to raise transportation dollars. They have also agreed, he said, to keep the phase-out provision for red light cameras, although future legislation could change that.

“It just defies logic that the House would not be given the opportunity to vote on this bill,” Carona said.

The House and Senate members must agree on a final version of the bill soon, or it could die.

The bill must be printed and distributed by midnight Saturday and must be voted on by midnight Sunday.

Carona said if Pickett would support the compromises the Senate has agreed to, the rest of the House would follow his lead since he is the chairman of the Transportation Committee.

“It all has come down to Joe Pickett,” Carona said. “Joe is a capable leader, and I need him to step forth now when it really counts.”

It’s too bad to see the Senate stud giving up so easy and leaving this bill in the hands of another legislator. This via QR, Pickett Says The Votes Aren’t There For Local Option Transportation Funding.

House Transportation Chair Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) challenges anyone, including the full might and power of Hillco Partners, to produce a list of 77 members of the House who would vote for a local option transportation tax. It just doesn’t exist, Pickett said


“Whoever gave the Senate a list of 77 members is ruining the bargaining position of the House,” Pickett said. “That’s especially true when they say they’re not going to show the names to you. That’s like everyone in the Speaker’s race saying they have 77 votes, and it ends up being something like 300 members.”

Pickett goes on to say that the three times he polled members of the house on some form of gas tax increase or indexing, he’s come up with about 50 members to vote for it. So if the local option tax is a deal breaker for Carona the get the TxDOT Sunset bill passed a deal may not get done.

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