T. Don Hutto Update

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Had Enough Yet?, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:08 pm by wcnews

Last we heard of T. Don Hutto was that UN Inspector Jorge Bustamante was not allowed to visit the lock-up. A visit that was scheduled prior to his trip to the United States to prepare a report on the treatment of immigrants here. He was also denied access to a facility in New Jersey last week.

Mr. Bustamante is not happy, and rightly so, and is taking action.

In a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, Bustamante complained that planned visits to the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Texas, and the Monmouth County Correctional Institution had been canceled without explanation and in violation of U.N. protocol.

“Both these visits were part of the approved itinerary agreed with the government of the United States,” Bustamante stated in the letter. “In neither case has the (U.S.) Government consulted me on the changes, or provided any explanation of the necessity for such cancellation.”

A spokeswoman for the Monmouth County jail told the Herald News on Monday that Bustamante’s visit had not occurred because he hadn’t agreed to their terms, though she declined to say what they were. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jamie Zuieback, backed up that claim on Wednesday, though she also declined to say what the terms of the visit were.

Zuieback said Bustamante was offered; “the opportunity to visit a number of detention facilities, including any of our ICE service processing centers.” She said he had chosen only to visit a facility in Arizona.

Bustamante continued calling the claims that he canceled the visits “a lie,” and vowed to pursue the issue with government officials.

It’s one thing to hide what’s going on from local media, as well as local and state politicians, but didn’t we supposedly go to war because somebody wouldn’t let the UN Inspector’s in? The movement against the T. Don Hutto family lock-up, and all those like it, continues to grow. Amnesty International will sponsor the next vigil in at the facility in Taylor, Amnesty International Hosts Hutto Vigil IX: Metroplex Coalition Forms.

It’s official. It’s exciting. It’s moving. It will be history making…

Amnesty International is sponsoring Hutto Vigil IX. Following that lead is an assortment of organizations that will be supporting and participating in that vigil.

June 23rd is the selected date. It is the Saturday after the International Day of the Refugee. So mark your calendars. We have over a month to make our personal and organizational plans.

Tomorrow LULAC National will hold a press conference in San Antonio to make official their participation.


A coalition of organizations from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex CAFHTA has already announced their participation. You can read their announcement [here].

Thanks to all those involved an keep up the good work.

Voter IDiocy Is A Sham, But You Already Knew That

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State, The Lege at 11:27 am by wcnews

Former Republican political director Royal Masset again blows up the GOP talking points on voter fraud, “It’s a lie”.

Royal Masset knows as much about the nuts and bolts of Republican politics as anyone in Texas.

He spent 15 years as the political director of the Republican Party of Texas. And during that period, Masset invented a statistical system for identifying winnable races for Republican candidates.

But Masset has grown disenchanted with the current GOP.

“We fulfilled our conservative agenda. To appear new we took more and more extreme positions. We became arrogant and self righteous,” he said in an email to me.

Masset is particularly disturbed by the voter identification bill that Republicans have been trying to push through the legislature.

Masset told me in an interview that during his years as political director of the party, every election cycle candidates would come to him claiming fraud in their elections.

“That’s almost is a religious part of the Republican canon that democrats are stealing these elections.

“It’s a lie. It’s not true. It does not exist.”

“I must have gotten 200 calls from people who wanted a criminal investigation of so-and-so because they lost by 100 votes and were sure there was fraud.”

“They could never prove anything.”

Masset noted that the 2005 election fraud study conducted by the House in the Herbert Vo/Talmadge Heflin race found no intentional fraud by voters in the defeat of Republican Heflin.

When Masset wrote an op-ed earlier this year saying the bill would keep his elderly mother from voting, the House added language to the bill exempting those over 80 from having to prove their identity.

But because of the past two days of fighting in the Senate, the bill now appears dead for the session.

Enough already. I hope the GOP will give up their crusade against excluding voters. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

SB 792 Is In The House Today

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 10:46 am by wcnews

It’ll be on the floor today. The “compromise” bill, which apparently will also be a catch-all for members to stick all there dying legislation on as amendments, which could stall it’s journey to the govenror’s desk.

A growing number of House members, according to Smith’s office, have begun to regard the must-pass toll road legislation as a handy vehicle on which to hang dead or dying bills.

By one estimate, there could be several dozen suggested amendments offered when the bill comes up today.

“I would hope that we could pass 792 without amendments, but that’s not likely,” Smith, a Baytown Republican, said Wednesday. “I hope that the members understand that their amendments should fit the spirit of the bill.”

Translated, that means: Don’t try to put anything on there that Perry wouldn’t like.

And Rep. Simth’s “legislators only” room didn’t get much traffic.

Supporters hoped to run the bill through the House unchanged this week in time for Perry to sign it Friday, before the veto deadline for HB 1892. Under that scenario, HB 1892 would then be recalled from Perry by a legislative resolution and laid to rest.

But the sudden effusion of amendments, along with unease among House members about getting a complex, significant bill late in the session, slowed the process.

To address this, Smith’s office took the unusual step Wednesday of setting up a legislators-only room in a conference room behind the House chamber, complete with maps, the 64-page bill and other educational materials, so lawmakers could go by and learn how it might affect their House district.

At midafternoon, despite a desultory pace of legislating on the House floor, no members had yet visited the room.

The TO Blog adds this, Strap On Your Seatbelts.

Although Sen. John Carona and his fellow legislators made a valiant effort to keep some of the toll-road controls in place, the compromise bill has so many authors, so many special interests, and so many exemptions that the final product is very difficult to decipher. (How we yearn for the days in the not-too-distant past when Sen. Robert Nichols offered up an elegantly simple two-page moratorium bill.)

When the action shifts back to the House tomorrow, members will have a number of choices. If they go along with the Senate version, the bill in all likelihood will be rushed to the Governor’s Office. Ricky has already indicated he will sign that one.

But if the House members are in a “mischievous” mood, as Round Rock Rep. Mike Krusee delicately puts it, they could tack their own amendments onto the Senate legislation. Then the package heads back to conference committee. If no compromise can be reached, the bill probably will die.

Should be fun…and Perry’s only got until Midnight Friday to make his decision on the veto.


Politicians Must Declare How Much That Gift Was

Posted in Corruption, 80th Legislature, Around The State, The Lege at 5:28 pm by wcnews

SB 129 passed the House today and is on its way to the governor. Rep. Lon Burnam’s statement below:

Today, the Texas House passed SB 129 which definitively requires public officials to disclose the value of monetary gifts they receive that exceed $250 in value. The Governor is expected to sign the bill now that it has passed both chambers.

This issue first came to light after Bob Perry gave ERS board member and Tom Craddick-confidante Bill Ceverha two checks worth $50,000 each. Ceverha tried to describe $100,000 in cash gifts merely as”checks,” without disclosing the amount. Ceverha is the former treasurer for Tom DeLay’s TRMPAC.

“I have spent the past two years working for greater transparency and disclosure in state ethics laws,” said State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth).

“Hopefully, with the passage of this bill, the Texas Ethics Commission will no longer be able to turn a blind eye when Republican cronies attempt to avoid disclosure,” said Burnam. “I’m very disappointed that the Ethics Commission didn’t do the right thing in the first place.”

“I’ve introduced legislation, HB 2451, to require the Ethics Commission to interpret and implement statutes so that this kind of situation doesn’t happen again.

“The Legislature should not have to do the Ethics Commission’s job by making laws when rules will suffice,” Burnam continued. “The Legislature only meets for five months every two years. We rely on state agencies to make rules to uphold the intent of the law. The Commission failed us in the Ceverha gift case.

“Hopefully in the future they will require disclosure of the amount of a $100,000 ‘gift.’”

Rep. Burnam’s HB 2451 passed the House overwhelmingly and is currently in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Aka, the suitcase full of cash, “This closes the loophole,” Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, said.

Dewhurst Sends A Letter - UPDATED

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State at 2:23 pm by wcnews

via TW, it appears to be on open access. The text of the letter is below the fold but let’s just say that Dewhurst is trying harder to acquire his “wing-nut” street cred. He’s doing it by using misleading statistics, the same ‘ol tired GOP talking points and I doubt he and Sen. Whitmire will singing Kumbaya together anytime soon.

[UPDATE] : Rebuttal from Harold Myerson. Let’s not forget, it’s a solution without a problem, The Cost of a GOP Myth.

[UPDATE II]: Dewhurst is now disavowing the letter, via QR and TW:

This started with his own headline — “A LETTER FROM LT. GOVERNOR DAVID DEWHURST ON VOTER I.D. BILL” — but Dewhurst himself is disavowing this statement on the issue after senators took him to task for it. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, came back with, “I’m as American as he is.”

Can Dewhurst screw this up any worse?

[LAST UPDATE]: Dewhurst issues mea culpa cover letter (.PDF) and a revised letter (.PDF). So who released the letter and what’s going to happen to them? Look below at the original. In bold are the extracted parts, and in italics a paragraph that was added to the revised version.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Speaker & An Incorrect Sports Analogy

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State, The Lege at 1:27 pm by wcnews

Chrisy Hoppe of the DMN tries to link the Republican “insurgents” against Craddick with the left, Push against Craddick is right out of left field. Instead she swings and misses with this incorrect sports analogy.

Those who had backed other speaker candidates were relegated to that place in left field, the “thanks for coming” spot reserved for awkward athletes who show up late to the softball game.

The scrub goes in right-field Christy. But to the substance of your article, that Craddick is just a victim of egotistical, power-hungry politicians and that he has had “No major scandal. No colossal failure.” Colossal? Maybe not, but he’s reiviews aren’t glowing. He has been involved in one of the biggest scandals in Texas politics we’ve seen in a while, Tom DeLay and the GOP’s Money Machine (see Craddickism). And to use your won words against you has seen the GOP loose seats in the House in the last two elections cycles, that stopped a long GOP streak of gains:

Then, seven Republicans lost their seats between 2004 and 2006, and so did some Democrats seen by their primary voters as too close to Mr. Craddick. The supermajority was gone, the margins tighter.

While that may not be a colossal failure it is a pattern, the GOP has lost House seats after every session that Craddick has been Speaker. While losing those seven seats isn’t a colossal failure, losing seven more would be. And that would put Craddick and his scrubs in right field.

Rep. Mike Krusee Calls Conservatives “A Bunch Of Nuts”

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:03 pm by wcnews

In an article from the St. Louis Dispatch on the “conspiracy theory” of a North American Union, Urban legend of `North American Union’ feeds on fears, Rep. Krusee has this to say.

Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Texas, who is chairman of the state’s House Transportation Committee, says that he knows of no plans to build a superhighway through Texas and that those who think otherwise are “a bunch of nuts.”

He alleges that commentators who talk of a NAFTA highway or the like are exploiting people’s fears.

“It’s jingoistic pandering,” Krusee said. “Pat Buchanan can try to sell some newspapers and Lou Dobbs can try to get more people to watch his little shows, but I’ve never heard of it. Certainly, it has never been discussed at any level of government in Texas.”

Beside the insults Rep. Krusee is just a little too sure that nothing is going on. He probably knowsnothing about this group, North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO), which is a conglomeration of government - state and county - and business interests form the US, Canada and Mexico. Check out their board and it’s members from the United States, surely some of the names will ring a bell. Whether there’s a plan for a “North American Union” or not it’s apparent that these governments are working together to build a SuperCorridor through North America. Now let’s have a debate, without name calling, as to whether or not that what we, the people, want.

Moratorium Timing & No Change

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:14 am by wcnews

Well today’s Friday’s the day. Will Gov. Perry veto the toll road moratorium bill (HB 1892), that’s been sitting on his desk for since May 7th, like he said he was going to do? It’s hard to believe he can’t after all he’s said. But what will that do to negotiations on the alternative/compromise bill (SB 792)? Ben Wear is reporting that the compromise bill will be in a House committee all day today, it could be amended dozens of times, and a “legislators only room” has been setup in the capitol so they can come by and “learn” about the bill.

Senate Bill 792’s sprint through the Legislature has run into some head winds.

A growing number of House members, according to bill sponsor Rep. Wayne Smith’s office, have begun to regard the must-pass toll road legislation as a handy vehicle on which to hang dead or dying bills. By one estimate, there could be several dozen suggested amendments by this morning.

Throw in the traditional late-session suspicion by lawmakers of any huge, complicated and significant bill, as well as a general distrust this session of the Texas Department of Transportation, and you have a potent brew of delay. The bill, which under supporters’ game plan was to come up for debate and a preliminary vote on the House floor today, isn’t on today’s calendar and won’t be debated until at least Thursday.

Which might put final approval on Friday — absent a relatively rare suspension of the House rules — or later if things really bog down. This is the last day before the 11:59 p.m. Friday deadline for Gov. Rick Perry to sign or veto HB 1892.

To address all this, Smith’s office is taking the extraordinary measure of setting up a legislators-only room in the Capitol today, complete with maps and other educational materials, so that lawmakers can come by and learn about the 60-page bill. And maybe listen to pleas that they drop those pesky amendments.

That stalling means there will be no guarantee of a compromise when Gov. Perry vetoes HB 1892 sometime before Midnight, of course that’s an assumption. But with a Perry veto and no deal signed, the override process must move forward. Like EOW said earlier for something to get done on this front, until there’s a bill signed by Perry, nobody can assume the deal is done. And what will the implications of a veto and the override process be to “the general distrust this session”, and the compromise process? Remember for Perry, Krusee, TxDOT and all their pro-corporate toll friends, no change is a win for them, and it’s the governor that calls special sessions. So if there’s no change this session, there will be not change until next session, at the earliest.

The Cracks Are Growing

Posted in 80th Legislature, Elections, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State, The Lege at 10:22 am by wcnews

The TO Blog does the best job of wrapping up what the political implications of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s sleazy actions will be, A Tuesday He’d Like to Forget. Some excerpts below:

Dewhurst was heavy-handed and combative, and picked an unnecessary fight with the Senate’s most senior member. Worst of all for Republicans, his mismanagement of the floor action cost them a golden opportunity at passing HB 218. With Democrats hunkered down in response to the threat, Dewhurst isn’t likely to see another opportunity like Tuesday’s.

His Tom Craddick impression would have won points with GOP leaders if he’d gotten the bill through. What made the day a total loss for Dewhurst was his inability to stay the course, and be the decider, long enough to get the bill to the floor. Dewhurst was by turns lax in his management of the time-critical situation, and conciliatory with those he slighted.


When the vote did come up, Sen. Glen Hegar wasn’t on the floor to vote with other Republicans, something easily prevented by better communication from the top. Benkiser, and other results-oriented GOP leaders, will want to know why Dewhurst saw fit to take his sweet time to finally bring up the bill, and didn’t have his bloc of Republican votes in line.

Instead, to keep his two-thirds Republican majority, Dewhurst took advantage of Democrat John Whitmire’s momentary absence from the floor when the clerk called his name. Whitmire had registered his vote before leaving, as is common practice in the Senate, but Dewhurst said the vote didn’t count.


Whitmire put it more succinctly to Dewhurst on the Senate floor. “Y’all don’t have to win this way,” the Senator said. At Whitmire’s objections, Dewhurst first tried a lame attempt at saying he was just following the rules. “We called your name several times. I gaveled the vote,” Dewhurst said — an argument about as convincing as “No passbacks, times two!” on the playground.

After threatening to have Whitmire removed from the floor, Dewhurst had a shaky grip on his composure. He mistakenly called Fraser “Dean,” (Whitmire’s title) instead of “Senator,” he slammed the gavel down to coax senators into their seats, and his voice quavered as he offered a second roll call vote.

What Dewhurst is trying to do is walk that fine line between, giving something to the “wing-nuts” to placate them (Voter IDiocy) - which he probably doesn’t agree with - while trying not to seem like he’s pandering, or a “wing-nut” himself. Give something to the base for the primary but keep to the center for the general. Which will prove tough, if not impossibile. He’s can’t get Texas Rush out of his rearview mirror, and the GOP primary for governor in 2010 will be bloody.

Deshurst wasn’t the GOP base’s ideal candidate back in 2002 but he was the only one that could win at that time. If a “wing-nut” would have run, and without Dewhurst and his money, John Sharp is, more than likely, in his second term as Lt. Gov., Redistricting never would have happened, and Voter IDiocy wouldn’t stand a chance in the Senate.

I just hope that Paul Burka will heap as much derision on the right-wing bloggers, as he did on BOR, for what they will do to Dewhurst for not meeting their benchmarks on voter suppression. (By the way Paul, why did you pull the comments from that post?)

The political implications from this are contained in GOP chair Tina Benkiser’s comment form earlier this session.

“He needs to make sure it happens,” Tina Benkiser, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Texas, said Wednesday. “We expect our Republican leaders to pass this legislation; it is supported by all the people.”

There is no “wiggle room” in that statement and that’s why Dewhurst pulled such a sleazy ploy yesterday. In an attempt to make himself look powerful - and a win at all costs cheater which the “wing-nuts” love - he instead failed, now looks weak, and has pissed off all, Democrats and Republicans, of the Senate. He’s got three and a half years to make up for it, but expectations are even higher now.

For a full wrap-up from all the state papers click here.


Keffer Announces For Speaker, Proposes Three-Term Limit For Speaker

Posted in Around The State, The Lege at 12:21 pm by wcnews

QR has the story.

“State Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) announced today that he has filed his candidacy paperwork for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for the 81st Regular Session which will begin in January, 2009.

“Keffer said he will formerly announce his candidacy for Speaker at the Texas House Republican Caucus meeting scheduled for early this afternoon.

“During the past few days, a majority of the members of the Texas House have agreed that we need a new Speaker and most have stated that they would prefer the selection of a new Speaker upon adjournment of the Regular Session rather than by placing a call on the Speaker during the session.”

“Keffer also challenged incumbent Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to publicly join with him in committing to a three-term Speaker limit.

“In my opinion, Speaker Craddick needs to announce that he will not seek another term and let the members pursue a new Speaker’s race,” said Keffer. “However, if Craddick does pursue another term, I will aggressively challenge him and will welcome others to also enter the Speaker’s race.”


“Since Craddick took over as Speaker, Republicans have lost 7 seats in the Texas House and several Democrats who have supported Craddick have been defeated in Democratic primaries. Craddick has also been the first Speaker in over 35 years to be over-ruled on a point of order by the Texas House membership which occurred in early May. Upon completion of the current term, Craddick will have served 40 years in the Texas House.

“I am committed to the three-term limit and if elected by my colleagues I am committed to being a Republican House Speaker in a Republican majority who will honor the rules, respect each member’s district, and pass good public policy.”

As an aside, sources close to Keffer tell us that he has received calls from supporters in the district telling him that Craddick is attempting to recruit and fully fund a challenger for the next election.

There should be no doubt anymore that not only will Craddick not change, he can’t. It’s not a knock on him that’s just the way he rolls. It’s too soon to tell but it’s a good bet that neither one of these guys will be Speaker in ‘09.

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