The Texas Progressive Alliance Files Brief With AG Regarding Speaker’s Authority

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, The Lege at 12:40 pm by wcnews

Texas bloggers, who were instrumental in covering the attempt to remove Speaker Tom Craddick during the 80th Legislative Session, have filed a brief with Attorney General Greg Abbott regarding the issue. From the press release:

The Texas Progressive Alliance, a confederation of more than 50 Texas bloggers and Internet activists representing many of Texas’ most prominent blogs, this morning filed a brief with the Texas Attorney General’s office in relation to Request for Opinion No. RQ-0589-GA, pertaining to the authority of the Office of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The initial request for the opinion relating to the power of the Speaker was made June 18, 2007 by Texas State Representatives Jim Keffer and Byron Cook following the close of the 80th Texas Legislature which ended with House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) refusing to recognize House members for a Motion to Vacate the Chair claiming his office was above the precedents and rules of the House and was instead only subject to impeachment pursuant to the Texas Constitution.

Initially, the Attorney General’s office invited only 29 individuals and organizations to submit briefs in connection with the Opinion Request. However, the process was later opened to all interested parties.

“Once the door was opened, we felt we would be remiss in not submitting a brief,” said Vince Leibowitz of CapitolAnnex.com, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. “As bloggers and citizen journalists, we all covered this process. We all examined the rules, the Texas Constitution, and case law and offered our opinions on this on our websites. We offered our opinions and shared with our world our collective shock at Speaker Craddick’s actions, and felt this was a prime opportunity to interject some of our ideas on this process,” Leibowitz continued.

The Alliance’s brief addressed each of the four questions posed in Reps. Keffer’s and Cook’s opinion request, and brought to the attention of the OAG’s opinion committee other information as well.

The TPA brief can be viewed here.

Bunches Of Media From Rick Noriega @ YearlyKos

Posted in US Senate Race, 2008 Primary, Democratic Events, Congress at 12:03 pm by wcnews

Apparently he’s making quite a name for himself there.

Podcast from Eplurbis Media with Rick Noriega at YearlyKos here.

Ustream.tv video regarding Rick Noriega at Yearlkos here.

OffTheKuff post w/pictures of “rock star” Rick Noriega at YearlyKos, At Yearly Kos with Rick Noriega,there’s one of him with George Lakoff.

Sen. Cornyn Votes Against SCHIP, Expanding Health Care For Uninsured Children

Posted in Health Care, Around The Nation, Around The State at 8:57 am by wcnews

Joining Williamson County’s Congressman John Carter, Sen John Cornyn has voted against insuring more uninsured children. Here’s the record vote. Here’s the McClatchy story on the vote, SCHIP increase passes in Senate.

In what could be a political setback for President Bush, the Senate voted late Thursday to increase funding by $35 billion for a popular health insurance program for low-income children.

The bipartisan measure passed 68-31, with enough support from Republicans to override a promised veto by Bush.

The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act provides a five-year, $35 billion budget increase for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.


County Attorney Asks AG Abbott For Opinion On Hiring Of Outside Legal Counsel - [UPDATED]

Posted in Williamson County at 5:10 pm by wcnews

County Attorney Jana Duty has filed a brief with the Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott regarding:

Whether a County Judge or County Commissioner can hire outside legal counsel to advise the Court on legal issues facing the Court, without the consent of the elected County or District Attorney.

From that we can take that if it’s consented to then it’s legal. We can also take from that Ms. Duty didn’t consent in this case. In the background of the brief Ms. Duty goes on to describe what happened.

In Williamson County, the County Attorney’s Office acts as the legal advisor to the Commissioner’s Court. For the past year, the court has been dealing with legal issues surrounding the renewal and expansion of the county owned landfill. Due to the immense public pressure, some of the commissioners have requested the court hire outside legal counsel to advise the court. The County Attorney has objected to the hiring of outside counsel.

If your not familiar with the “immense public pressure” surrounding the landfill go to the website for the Hutto Citizens Group. From the brief it would appear that the elected County Attorney was moved aside in favor of “outside legal counsel”. Why the County Judge and Commissioners Court thought it was better to use outside legal counsel and not the elected County Judge, especially when the County Judge has to sign the contract, is not known. That’s something for the elected Judge and Commissioners to explain. Ms. Duty finishes the brief citing a previous case that the elected county attorney should not be circumvented.

Justice Hightower put it best in his dissent in Guynes when he stated that by allowing a commissioners court to hire attorneys to do the job of a county attorney is allowing the commissioners court to circumvent the will, of the voters, whom the county attorney is answerable to, (See Guynes dissent 861 S.W.2d 861, Tex, 1993).

She makes a strong case. The whole brief can be read here [.PDF], and you can also see the draft of the new landfill contract here [.PDF].

The landfill has been a contentious issue for the county for a couple of years now. This won’t do anything to change that. It appears the County Attorney, Jana Duty, was moved aside for outside/unelected counsel when it came to the new landfill contract and she doesn’t think that’s legal and wants to know AG Abbott’s opinion about it.

[UPDATE]: AAS has a blurb up on the brief, Landfill debate prompts request for state ruling.

Duty could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday evening.

County Judge Dan A. Gattis said the court felt it needed extra help because of the complicated issues involved and the amount of money at stake with the contract.

“We’re not fighting each other here,” he said. “We’re not mad at each other, but there is a difference of opinion.”

From Gattis’ statement, it could be surmised, that Duty wasn’t seen as being able to handle complicated issues involving large amounts of money by the Judge and Commissioners Court.

Sen. Cornyn Votes Against Ethics Refrom

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, Had Enough Yet?, Around The Nation, Around The State at 3:30 pm by wcnews

Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas) was one of only 13 Senators to vote against the measures. From Think Progress.

In an 83 to 14 vote, the Senate today joined the House and passed legislation requiring that “lawmakers disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists, a move some called the biggest advance in congressional ethics in decades.”

McCain voted against it too.

Does This Mean It’s No Longer A Partisan With Hunt?

Posted in Cronyism, Congress, Corruption, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State at 2:56 pm by wcnews

Or as South Texas Chisme says, Even the Republicans want Tom DeLay in jail. From the AAS.

An attorney who represents the state in cases before Texas’ highest criminal appeals court has joined Travis County prosecutors in asking the court to reverse itself and reinstate an indictment against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

State Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Van Horn filed a friend of the court brief saying the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not upholding a conspiracy indictment against DeLay, a Sugar Land Republican who stepped down from Congress last year.

Van Horn said in Thursday’s editions of the Houston Chronicle that he filed a brief in support of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s request for a rehearing because the court’s recent ruling in DeLay’s case would affect many areas of criminal law.

He said under the court’s ruling, the conspiracy statute will apply only to crimes that have been specifically designated by the Legislature as having a conspiracy element.

I knew there had to be at least one Republican that still believed in the rule of law.

New & Improved Texas Democratic Party Website

Posted in Take Action, Democratic Events, Around The State at 12:08 pm by wcnews

Click here, www.txdemocrats.org, to check it out.

Great job!! New design looks great. Go and sign up if you haven’t already.

SCHIP Passes The House, John Carter Votes Nay

Posted in Health Care, Congress, Had Enough Yet?, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:22 am by wcnews

Here’s the roll call vote. Here’s the WaPo article on the passage, Children’s Health Bill Approved By House. It’s no wonder so many Republicans voted against it when you see the hate groups (sarcasm) that are supporting this.

The 225 to 204 vote in the House — largely along party lines — came after hours of delaying tactics, strident rhetoric and trench warfare from Republicans who called the bill the first step toward “socialized medicine,” financed by an unfair tobacco tax increase and cuts for managed-care companies in Medicare.

But in the end, the Democrats had weapons that were just too powerful — a promise to insure 5 million more children who otherwise would have no access to health care, adding to the 6 million children already covered — and the backing of Republican and Democratic governors, the American Medical Association, AARP, the March of Dimes, the Catholic Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and even cyclist Lance Armstrong. And the prospects are good in the Senate, where a key Republican, Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), said, “It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone wouldn’t want to do this.”

But Bush opposes such a major expansion of the program. In an interview with The Washington Post last month, he said, “When you expand eligibility . . . you’re really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government.”

And that last sentence is what the private insurance financed Republicans are worried about. People might actually like this because it works and then not just the poor children will want it. More from earlier this week on Rep. Carter and Sen. Cornyn and Vince has more on how
Texas representatives voted on the bill
. For these “representatives” to back insurance companies over children is despicable.

Surprise, Surprise!

Posted in Privatization, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:43 am by wcnews

I really wish anyone in Texas involved in transportation could sing a different tune, Area highway plan may require more tolls.

Bob Daigh, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Austin district engineer, told the CAMPO board in July that state money allocated to his district for these five roads would be at least $500 million short of paying for their construction.

“At the end of the day, there will be a need for toll financing on some of these roads,” said Austin City Council Member Brewster McCracken, a CAMPO board member who had second thoughts after voting for the 2004 plan. “There’s no way to build all of them otherwise.”

There are significant differences between that 2004 plan and the current situation, both in the specifics of the projects as well as how the 13-member CAMPO board and the state Transportation Department are approaching the decision.

Gone from this menu of roads, first of all, are two stretches that in 2004 were already under construction and being built 100 percent with tax dollars: U.S. 183 from Interstate 35 to Springdale Road and Texas 71 from I-35 to Riverside Drive.

Critics of the 2004 plan have always said that it would amount to double taxation to later charge tolls on those roads, which have since opened as free roads.

Watson and McCracken say the completed U.S. 183 and Texas 71 expressway lanes should stay free.

Remember this is all because of the neglect and disrepair of our transportation infrastructure at the state and national level since the mid-90’s or so. Hmmm…which party has been in control most of that time? I wonder what happens when our transportation infrastructure is neglected and tax cuts become the main focus?

The point is that a philosophy based on a fallacy that we can have everything we’ve always had and tax cuts too, has caused many things in our country to be neglected. Now as for as Sen. Watson and Mr. McCracken, as long as they keep their mouths shut and don’t start advocating for a more broad based tax to be used to fund our infrastructure, i.e. the gas tax could be raised and indexed, “..there will be a need for toll financing..”. Some things in life take courage, and sometimes politicians have to put themselves and their job on the line, and show that courage. It’s time we addressed this question honestly and do what needs to be done before more tragedies happen.


TX-Sen: Democratic Primary - Video Wars Edition

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 4:25 pm by wcnews

Watch more Rick Noriega video here. This time as a guest on Valley Newsline.

Texas Politics posts on Noriega’s video and a story that critique’s Mikal Watts’ intro video on his website. It says something about Watts’ online organizing that their video isn’t up on YouTube - or able to be embedded on blogs with some other video technology - as Texas Nate asks at Mydd.

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