T. Don Hutto Vigil X, Video and Pictures

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:17 pm by wcnews

KXAN and KEYE have video.

Dave Maass form the SA Current has pictures, an lots of them as does Free the Children.

Estimates are between 400 and 500 people showed up. Great turnout!

Coupland Civic Organization June Meeting With Farm Bureau Official

Posted in Road Issues, Williamson County at 10:07 pm by wcnews

The Coupland Civic Organization will meet on Monday, June 25, in the Fellowship Hall of St. Peter’s Church. The program will be presented by Regan Beck, associate legislative director of the Texas Farm Bureau. He will discuss new legislation and farmers’ rights, a hot topic right now since Gov. Perry has just vetoed HB 2006, eminent domain legislation that would have given more rights to property owners. Come for refreshments at 6:30 p.m. The meeting begins at 7.


Vigil X, T. Don Hutto

Posted in Privatization, Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State, Williamson County at 11:01 pm by wcnews

Event Details What: Solidarity rally in honor of World Refugee Day Where: T. Don Hutto detention facility, 1001 Welch St., Taylor, Texas When: Saturday, June 23, 2007, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Central time

Amnesty International released this statement ahead of tomorrow’s rally:

“The T. Don Hutto detention facility is a former prison for hardened criminals, now run by a for-profit corporation to detain child asylum seekers, migrants and their families. On any given day, Hutto holds up to 400 of these vulnerable individuals, as young as five months, who are looking to the United States for asylum or other protection from the full, awful range of human rights violations abroad.

“Kids seeking asylum have fundamental human rights — rights that Hutto violates. Detaining them at all, let alone for prolonged periods, contravenes U.S. and international standards. At Hutto, children live surrounded by security fences topped by razor wire. Until recently, they had to wear prison jumpsuits and got only one hour of school a day, despite the requirements of Texas state law. Defenders of the facility claim that it’s designed solely to keep track of asylum-seekers and migrants — but prison is an unacceptable way of monitoring the location of kids seeking protection.

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) family detention system is flawed, inconsistent, and in violation of national and international standards. The U.S. government should make radical changes at Hutto and other family detention facilities. The rights of children simply must come first.

“Amnesty International urges DHS not to detain children. If there is ever justification to detain a child, it should be for the shortest time possible and in the least restrictive setting possible, in a facility that is appropriate to the child’s needs and complies with both international and domestic standards. DHS must stop placing enforcement above children’s best interests.”

Williamson County gets $1/inmate/day. Shameful.

Texas Farm Bureau Responds, Clarifies HB 2006 Veto

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 4:43 pm by wcnews

(Promoted from the comments. Below is a response from the Texas Farm Bureau to this EOW post regarding Gov. Perry’s veto of HB 2006, a bill regarding eminent domain. In the extended post also is an email back-and-forth between myself and the TFB’s State Legislative Director Billy Howe. I would like to thank Mr. Howe for his participation in the discussion and agreeing to have it all posted. Blogs have created the space where a conversation like this can take place.)

Texas Farm Bureau appreciates your support for HB 2006, but some of your take on what happened with the legislation at the end of session is incorrect. Granted, to an outside observer, it would seem that the Hegar amendment was the cause of Governor Perry’s veto. However, it was not. The Texas Farm Bureau legislative team worked closely with Representative Woolley and Senator Janek throughout the session. Therefore, we were privy to the “blow by blow” events.

When HB 2006 passed the House to the Senate, it included language that “any factor” a willing buyer and seller would consider could be used in determining compensation. One of those factors could have been compensation for diminished access to your property. Of course, diminished access is the reason given for the veto. The condemning authorities went to Senator Janek and convinced him to change the language. The changes basically put everything in HB 2006 back to current law, so then, what would have been the point to passing a bill that did nothing to help property owners? Texas Farm Bureau and others went to Senator Janek and explained the impact of the changes. Senator Janek asked us to work on new language to fix the problem. He then took the new language, which is know now as the “Janek amendment” to TXDOT and the Governor’s staff. TXDOT immediately objected claiming it would cost $100 million more a year because they would have pay for diminshed access. Which by the way is the same issue the Hegar Amendment addressed. So, even though the governor and TXDOT want to focus everyone on the Hegar amendment, they were making the same claims on the Janek amendement a week before anyone ever saw the Hegar amendment. If you go back and read the veto proclamation you will notice that it speaks of two amendments, the other amendment was the Janek Amendment.

Senator Janek and Duncan met with stakeholders from both sides Saturday and Sunday before HB 2006 came to the Senate floor for a vote. During those meetings, they requested numbers to substantiate the $100 million cost claims. Of course, now that cost claim has risen to a $1 billion. Those numbers were never produced, which is why Senator Janek moved forward with his amendment.

Fast forward to Representative Woolley and the House. Obviously, TXDOT and the Governor’s office was not pleased the Janek and Hegar amendments were added to HB 2006. It was at this point the first threat of veto was made. Representative Woolley told them to provide her language to fix their concerns, but she was not interested in any language that did not compensate the landowner for the devaluation of their property. She felt strongly that the landowner should be paid for the “injuries” suffered from the condemnation. One of the oldest tricks in the book to kill a bill is to “slow play.” You negotiate it to death by dragging it out until there is no time left. Therefore, Representative Woolley gave TXDOT and the Governor’s office a deadline, and they did not meet it. Representative Woolley refused to let them kill her bill by running out the clock.

The bottomline is that had Representative Woolley agreed to strike the Hegar Amendment, there still would not have been a deal because they also opposed the Janek Amendment. And, let’s not forget that they tried to get Senator Janek to strike the original compensation language in the bill as well. Without those amendments, property owners would not have received one more dime in compensation than what they can get today under current law. And, that is exactly what the opposition wanted. Howevever, Represenative Woolley had been clear from day one when she filed HB 2006 that the bill must provide fair compensation to property owners. She did not intend to pass legislation leaving the status quo. In our opinion, her unwillingness to bow to political pressure and gut her bill showed great leadership.

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The Battle Over Reagan, Commandment Breaking, & Oh What Fun The Texas GOP Primary Is Gonna Be

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The State at 1:54 pm by wcnews

The GOP base in Texas is well stirred over all the breaking of the 11th commandment over the last six months or so. From today’s AAS, Legislators hid behind Reagan.

Though Ronald Reagan’s name is invoked often in the Texas Legislature, precious few legislators champion Reagan’s vision.

Like a poorly written political novella, the legislative session began with an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the speaker of the House and an undercurrent of insurrection continued through adjournment.

As the mutiny played out, a number of legislators found themselves in the eye of the storm and looking for cover.

As the dust settled, Speaker Tom Craddick still had control of the gavel, which sent insurgents scurrying for cover. A handful of legislators found temporary sanctuary invoking the Ronald Reagan name and creating a political action committee to protect Republicans who joined the minority party in efforts to unseat the speaker.

In the process, these legislators have attempted to rewrite history. Speaker wannabes chose to establish the so-called 3R PAC: “Ronald Reagan Republicans for Local Community Control and Speaker Term Limits.”

This PAC has left critics chuckling (see Greg’s Opinion), Reaganites offended and history buffs baffled. Not only is it a group of Republicans who attempted a revolt, in clear violation of Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment, but its objectives are policies Reagan opposed.

Reagan backed spending caps and appraisal caps on steroids. He practically invented them, leading the property tax revolution with his Proposition 1 in 1973, which paved the way for California’s Prop. 13 property tax cap in 1978.

In contrast, Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, a leader of the 3R PAC, is the leading legislative opponent of spending and appraisal caps. This session, Hill helped pass legislation limiting citizens’ ability to petition for elderly and disabled exemptions.

Ms. Venable could clearly use an history lesson on the GOP’s “11th commandment”. Clearly it was not about not having intra-party revolts, because St. Ronnie tried one of his own. It was, “Speak no ill of a fellow Republican”. It has been revised to suit any purpose over the years. I’m not sure why, but Ms. Venable didn’t 11th commandment Rep. Mike Krusee for his invoking of Reagan.

Hopefully this will continue so there can be much more left-critic-chuckling all the way throug the primary. More below the fold.

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Sen. Chris Harris In The DMN

Posted in Election 2008, 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 11:18 am by wcnews

It’s just a little short interview/editorial with state Sen. Chris Harris (R - Arlington), Legislature in Review, but there’s a couple of things about it that are interesting. One is that first on his list of accomplishments by the 80th Lege are the increases in spending for social services - CHIP, Medicaid, and adult and child protective services. While those are great accomplishments it’s just odd to see those first on a Republicans list. Looks like he’s running for reelection. The interesting thing was his biggest regret from the session:

Question: What was your biggest regret?

Answer: My biggest regret was that time ran out on many important bills this session. At the beginning of session, the House did not pass a rule to allow bills to be heard on the floor until after the 60th legislative day. This slowed down the entire process and killed many House and Senate bills in the end. We worked very hard on many pieces of good legislation only to see them die as time ran out.

As most legislature followers know, that bill did nothing of the kind. It was passed because the Speaker was much less powerful. All the rule change did was provide a uniquely American check and balance by requiring a vote, and only a simple majority was needed, to bring up a bill during the first 60 days. It’s sad to see a legislator, who must be aware of the nuance on that issue, as well as the newspaper, to continue misleading on this. You can read EOW’s reporting on the 60-day rule here, here and here.


Funny Story About Tolls And Local Control…

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 10:24 am by wcnews

As evidenced by what is happening in Houston.

Harris County leaders said Wednesday they might reconsider their decision to double peak hour fees on the Westpark Tollway, but the review might not lead to a reduction in toll rates.

Nice doublespeak. Also, to a lesser extent North Texas, it’s becoming clear that even local control of toll roads is not the answer to our, Texas’, problem with funding transportation. With toll roads as the answer to our transportation problem, the increases will be of larger dollar amounts and more eye popping, than a raise in the gas tax would have been. A toll road, generally speaking, is servicing a much smaller segment of the overall driving population. This and many other projects around the state could be paid for with a raise of a couple of pennies on the gas tax for all Texans instead, and here would be no tolls on the roads.

If you haven’t realized by now TxDOT’s plan is to toll every new road project in Texas. In that case huge toll increases will become a way of life for Texans, especially when the traffic doesn’t show up like projected by the consultants.

The funny part is that because of the legislatures action this year - SB 792, the so-called toll road moratorium - the burden and blame for rising tolls has shifter to local elected officials. Here’s the article on the toll increases by HCTRA, As Westpark tolls rise, so do tempers.

Harris County Commissioners Court’s decision Tuesday to fight congestion on the three-year-old Westpark Tollway by forcing some drivers off the road with higher rush-hour fees drew the ire of cash-strapped commuters.

And a dismissive response from Commissioner Steve Radack — “Let them go down Richmond Road” — made the new $2.50 tolls even less palatable for some.

Commuter Vic Stewart, in an e-mail, said of the Commissioners Court, “And ‘Let them eat cake!’ They’ll certainly have time.”

Commissioners Court voted unanimously to hike fees to $2.50 from 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., hoping fewer drivers will use the tollway.

The court, also in a unanimous vote, raised fees by 25 cents on all county toll roads. The increases will go into effect in September.

Wow, that’s a lot of money. The state government has abdicated their duty of raising money to pay for roads through the gas tax. A gas tax is the most broad based, fairest, and sanest way to pay for new roads. Gov. Perry, Ric Williamson and elected state officials like Rep. Mike Krusee tell us that because of this tolls are the only option left in the tool box to build new roads. It’s this way because of their lack of leadership, to do something that’s tough and necessary, raise the gas tax. It’s debatable whether tolls are left as the only option because of incompetent neglect or planned neglect to force toll roads, and corporate toll roads in particular, upon us. Like so many things that “conservatives” have done to our government it’s hard to tell if it’s actual incompetence or their admitted hate of government that causes them to sabotage our government so it looks like incompetence.

Surely most local elected officials thought this would work out better than this. The shifting of this burden to local officials will, more than likely, cause turnover, lost elections, in most metropolitan areas. The locals can try and blame the state but most of these local officials probably wanted the extra power this brings, just not the responsibility that has come with it. So our only option is to pay up like Mr. Radack suggests or drive on the non-tolled roads. Happy motoring


When It Is Time To Go, It Is Time To Go

Posted in Education, Around The State at 11:32 pm by wcnews

Shirley Neeley out at as Education Commissioner, Texas’ education commissioner to resign.

State Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley will resign July 1, telling her staff and friends in a letter that the decision for her to leave was Gov. Rick Perry’s.

“I can compare my situation to that of a superintendent when a school board decides to take no action or not to extend their contract,” Neeley said in her letter. “Any way you look at it, the message is clear: when it is time to go, it is time to go.”

It appears that “TAKS cheating” will be the reason.

Cheating has become a dominant issue at the agency and, to a lesser degree, in the state’s 8,000 schools. The agency hired a private company to look for irregular answers on tests, such as large numbers of erasures, and turned up 700 schools where more investigation was needed. The agency’s investigation concluded that there was cheating at three of those schools, but the investigation itself largely took schools at their word when cheating was suspected.

SOS, Chief of Staff, Education Commissioner. That’s three.

Mary Beth Harrell To Host Talk Show On KCNT

Posted in Central Texas, Around The State at 11:06 pm by wcnews

2006 Democratic Congressional candidate in TX-31 Mary Beth Harrell to host a new talk show, “Insight”, on KCNT-TV in Killeen. Congratulations Mary Beth! Link to press release here, full text below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Our State Bird Is In Trouble

Posted in The Environment, Around The State at 4:50 pm by wcnews

AAS, Texas state bird’s population in decline.

The Texas population of mockingbirds — the official state bird — has declined by 18 percent over the past four decades, according to the National Audubon Society.


Suburbanization is a major reason, he said. Sprawl has cost many of these birds much of their natural habitat.

Texas homeowners can help the state bird by planting berry-bearing shrubs in their yards, he said.

So go plant a fruit tree. KUT has audio.

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