Last Day For House Committees On HBs/HJRs & Session Notes

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 12:31 pm by wcnews

Today begins the long list of almost daily deadlines from here to the end of session. Texas Politics links to the calendar here. Vince has more on the deadline, It’s May 7th…Do You Know Where Your Bills Are?.

A moment after the gavel came down for a recent lunch recess, the main doors of the Texas House opened and lobbyists poured into the chamber like salmon swimming upstream.

Members who wanted to avoid them ducked out the chamber’s back doors. Others were quickly collared by lobbyists urging the passage or defeat of legislation.

And on the chamber’s south side, three committees met in hastily called sessions at their chairmen’s desks to vote out bills ahead of legislation-killing deadlines that are coming up this week.

Transportation Chairman Mike Krusee lacked a quorum at the rear of the chamber. So Krusee took several steps down the aisle toward the crowd gathered at the desk of Criminal Jurisprudence Chairman Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

“Joe! Joe Deshotel! Raise your hand!” Krusee shouted to Peña’s desk mate.

Rep. Deshotel sat at his own desk, surrounded by Peña’s criminal jurisprudence meeting where a bill on sex predators in nursing homes was being debated. Deshotel, D-Beaumont, was preparing for an expected House debate on dog fighting by watching a brutal video of pit bulls ripping each other up.

Deshotel raised his hand to give Krusee his quorum.

And the sorry way committees work in the Lege, DMN Casts A Critical Eye On The Committee Process. As the Deadline Calendar notes, today’s deadline is not in the house rules but if a bill is not reported out of committee today it has little chance of making onto a calendar.

Last week EOW wrote about Perry’s relevancy.

After reelection, Mr. Perry then, as his first order of business, tried to play to the middle of the political spectrum, that not only doesn’t like him, but doesn’t trust him, by putting for the HPV vaccination order and the scheme to sell the lottery. In the process he ignored those that elected him, the religious and right-wing of his party, virtually nullifying any support he had left, in an attempt to regain any shred of credibility as a governing force.

Yesterday Clay Robison of the HChron had this editorial about Perry trying to get back to base(ics), make himself relevant, before session ends, Perry aims to maintain his relevance.

Since enraging his conservative constituents with his controversial HPV vaccine order, Gov. Rick Perry has been busy rehabilitating his credentials.

Surrounded by a group of conservative parents, legislators and lawyers, he held a news conference a few weeks ago to endorse a bill to ensure that students can express their religious beliefs in public schools.

Then, last week, the governor tossed his political base a double portion of raw meat.

That red meat? Why guns and taxes, of course.

Last, the SAEN, has the latest update on fate of certain legislation (passed, likely to pass, future uncertain, dead or dying) at this point in session, Legislation status.

17,000 Children Can’t Be Wrong

Posted in Health Care, Privatization, The Budget, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 10:16 am by wcnews

Sometimes in life we just have to admit we were wrong. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst didn’t necessarily admit he’s been wrong on his stance on CHIP, but he’s done what, in political terms amounts to it. He’s come around to the other side’s point of view. Kuff has it here, Dewhurst finally sees the light on CHIP.

I’ve been told that the best way to deal with someone who finally comes around to your way of thinking after resisting for a long time is to pretend he’s always agreed with you. With that in mind, let me just say how nice it is to see this.

It is nice to see Dewhurst come around on this issue. It’s just too bad it took another 17,000 kids to be kicked off the roles for him to come around.

Also if you want to read real life stories of those who have no insurance in Texas go check out this report, In Harm’s Way: True Stories of Uninsured Texas Children (.PDF), by the Childrens Defense Fund of Texas.


Amid All The Bluster Of Toll Moratoriums, Don’t Forget The TTC Is Not Included

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:39 pm by wcnews

As Ben Wear points out in this post. The Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) urged Gov. Perry to support the moratorium on the TTC. But the TTC is not included in the moratorium.

The Texas Farm Bureau today asked Gov. Rick Perry to sign a bill now on his desk “that would establish a two-year moratorium on the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.” Which would be fine if there were such a bill.

Actually, HB 1892, the bill Perry has before him and must decide on by May 14 or so, does not apply a moratorium to the Trans-Texas Corridor. The bill, along with doing dozens of pages of other things, bans the state for two years from signing agreements with private companies to build, operate and take revenue from tollways.

But Gov. Perry has to actually accept the bill before he can veto it.


ICE Says, “Stay Away Bustamante”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Privatization, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State at 11:32 pm by wcnews

ICE won’t let UN Inspector to visit T. Don Hutto, U.N. representative visit to immigration center rejected.

A planned United Nations visit to a highly criticized central Texas center for detaining immigrant families was never approved by federal immigration officials, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Thursday.

ICE didn’t immediately respond to questions of why the visit by Jorge Bustamante, the Human Rights Council’s independent expert on migrant rights, wasn’t approved.

Keeping out FPS, keeping out the UN. That sure makes it look like they’re hiding something.

CCA Announces Profits Are Up - Imprisoning Children Pays, And Pays Well

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Commentary at 1:41 pm by wcnews

Here’s the Press Release, and a few excerpts:

Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW) (the “Company” or “CCA”), the nation’s largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies, announced today its financial results for the three-month period ended March 31, 2007.


For the three months ended March 31, 2007, CCA reported net income of $32.6 million, or $0.52 per diluted share, compared with $21.3 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, for the same period in the prior year.


Federal revenues were favorably impacted by new contracts from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (”ICE”) at our T. Don Hutto Residential Center, our Stewart Detention Center and our Eloy Detention Center.

Hooray!! Corporations profiting form taxpayer money to imprison children.

The Toll Road Moratorium(s) - Where We Stand

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

From the beginning the toll road moratorium has been a dicey situation. The amazing show of support against corporate toll roads at the hearing Sen. Carona’s called got the train rolling. Soon after Texans had veto-proof majorities, in favor of a toll moratorium, in both chambers. With the train pro-moratorium train rolling down the tracks, Sen. Carona figured he couldn’t stop it, and he decided to jump off. Rep. Krusee (R - Irrelevant), chair of the House Transportation Committee, was then side-stepped and the moratorium passed both chambers, as an amendment to HB 1892, with overwhelming support. But now comes the hard part.

My initial impression after the moratorium initially passed the House was this:

At this point, in the end, it seems that this is how it will all shake out: Get one of these bills all the way through both chambers and to the governor, but late enough that the veto can’t be overridden, therefore giving many Republicans cover allowing them to say they voted for the moratorium even though it doesn’t become law.

I was wrong about them getting the bill to Perry on time. That’s been done. Now the veto has to be overridden. Burka says the current bill has long odds in the Senate for an override, and if overridden, Perry will call special session after special session, until he gets what he wants. He says what Perry wants, and will be fighting HB 1892 about is, that he would accept a moratorium but will not accept the HCTRA and other exemptions, similar to the 24 mini TxDOT’s argument, that are part of HB 1892.

The Legislature can avoid the showdown by recalling 1892, in which case Perry could allow the stand-alone moratorium to become law. I don’t believe the Legislature has the stomach for this fight.

Of course the reason the moratorium is wrapped up in with another bill is because Rep. Krusee wouldn’t let the “clean” moratorium bill through his committee. That is, until he, and the governor, were staring HB 1892, and it’s veto-proof majorities in the face. That pressure is what caused Krusee, along with whoever else, to “kick out” SB 1267.

Which leads us to the where we are now. The question becomes will enough senators back off of HB 1892 in exchange for SB 1267 and other pressure? And, if so, will SB 1267 get through the process in enough time to override a possible veto, guarantee it’s becoming law? Because, for the sake of argument, suppose Perry is able to corral enough senators to keep his veto from being overridden, on the promise that SB 1267 won’t be vetoed, but then, with time running out, Perry vetoes it too. Then we’re left with no change ,which would suit the governor, Rep. Krusee, and the corporate tollers just fine. What that means is that those senators that vote NOT to override, better have a signed SB 1267 in hand before voting NOT to override HB 1892.

And who would those senators that could be persuaded be? The last record vote on HB 1892 in the Senate was 27 - 4. Here are the yeas and nays. (Republican yeas, Democrat nays, in bold).

Yeas: Brimer, Carona, Deuell, Ellis, Eltife, Estes, Fraser, Gallegos, Harris, Hegar, Hinojosa, Jackson, Janek, Nelson, Nichols, Patrick, Seliger, Shapiro, Shapleigh, Uresti, Van de Putte, Watson, Wentworth, West, Whitmire, Williams, Zaffirini.

Nays: Averitt, Duncan, Lucio, Ogden.

Perry would have to flip 7 yeas votes to stop the override. From Kuff’s piece yesterday we know that Brimer, Carona, Harris, and Jackson are up for reelection in 2008. We also found out yesterday there’s a possibility that Sen. Janek may resign after session and that would put his seat in play too. Toll roads mattered in 2006 and depending on what happens this session, no change would keep it a very heated issue. And those are left, that are responsible for no change, will have to answer for it in 2008. That’s not a threat, it’s just reality.


One Is The Loneliest Number

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 3:44 pm by wcnews

Tip to Sal:

House Bill 1892, which would restrict private toll road contracts in a variety of ways, heads to Gov. Perry’s desk after passing on a 139-1 vote. The lone nay vote was State Sen. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson. While Perry may veto the bill, the Legislature would have enough time before it adjourns May 28th to override such an action.

Going down with the ship. While this is funny, until the veto is overridden, don’t relax. There’s still more to go. This ain’t over.

A Few Items On Tolls

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:15 am by wcnews

Sal has the letter that Sen. Hutchison wrote to the FWHA telling them to “back off”, my words. Hopefully she put a call into Rep. Krusee too.

Only Rep. Mike Krusee would come out and say, after the SAO puts out a report saying that TxDOT has over-estimated the funding gap by $45 billion, with B, that TxDOT may have actually “underestimated” the funding gap. I kid you not:

Toll road promoter Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, said he believes the estimate may be low by as much as $50 billion because of the needs of local governments.

The auditor’s report said $8.6 billion in local government costs should not have been included in the funding estimate because those costs are not part of the state funding plan. The audit team also said almost $37 billion in urban and metropolitan costs could not be documented.

Nice try, SNAP!

Burka has some insight into the new developments in the toll moratorium game.

Meanwhile, today House Transportation chairman Mike Krusee moved Robert Nichols’ stand-alone moratorium bill out of committee, where it had been mired. Krusee, of course, is a strong advocate of Tx-DOT’s policies, so this was not the unfriendly act that it seemed. If Tx-DOT has to swallow a poison pill, better the moratorium than Carona’s multifaceted restrictions. When the time comes to fight the override, Perry can promise to sign the moratorium into law if lawmakers in either house uphold his veto. Strange things may happen before this script plays out. My friend Cliff Johnson likes to say of the “How a Bill Becomes Law” chart, “It’s not what happens in the boxes that matters, it’s what happens on the lines between the boxes.”

The biggest problem for Perry is that his natural constituency, the business communities in the two big metropolitan areas, love HB 1892, because it allows the toll authorities in Houston and the Metroplex to act as little Tx-DOTs, entering into the kind of privatization agreements with foreign companies that enraged the populace when Tx-DOT did it. And the money generated by the agreements is guaranteed to stay in the region.

There gonna play rural v. urban. They’ve gotten the Feds involved. They’ll play urban area v. urban area. Burka also says they’ll be some of the usual arm twisting, “Every member fears gubernatorial vetoes of their pet bills”. Perry and Krusee have done 4 - 6 years of work (fulfilling donor promises) on this issue and will, no doubt, pull out all the stops to fulfill those obligations. This second bill that Krusee put into play yesterday is a ploy to gum-up the works, and give legislators another option, which is never good. And keep in mind, if nothing gets done that’s a win for Krusee, Perry, and their corporate toll road backers.

SA Toll Party has this on more TxDOT shenanigans. TxDOT is essentially asking our congressmen NOT to seek federal funding for projects without clearing it with them.

The Citizenship Test

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 10:09 am by wcnews

It’s a bad bill, plain and simple. Initially in the post below I was hopeful, seeing that eight Democrats broke to vote for it, and that QR was reporting that it could have been worse. One of my first impressions of this bill is that if we’re going to invest all these NEW powers in the Secretary of State (SOS), this office must become an elected office and NOT stay as a political appointment by the governor.

That being said we now have to look forward to the proposition of the SOS hiring a bunch of new staff to perform this operation or, low and behold, they outsource/privatize this to somebody’s brother in-law’s IT company, which will fudge up our voter rolls just like happened in Florida in 2000.

Best case with this bill is that whatever “fraud” it purports to fix - and there’s very little, if any, evidence that it does, and if it did this NEW law grandfather’s in anyone that’s already on the rolls fraudulently - it opens up a whole new huge can-of-worms. That can is verifying voters citizenship which leaves new registrants open to having their registrations disallowed due to partisan politics, computer error, or malice.

DMN has this story, House approves bill requiring state to verify voters’ citizenship.

[Oppenents] argued that the state has no reciprocity agreements with other states’ birth-certificate and naturalization databases and that trying to cross-check millions of voters against numerous lists like Social Security and driver’s license records would produce too many errors.

That’s right birth certificates are done by the states and not the federal government.

It’s a simple question to answer, should it be verified that everyone who registers to vote is a US citizen? Of course they should. But like with so many things the devils in the details. And the devil in this detail is that the system, as put forth in HB 626, looks like it would create more problems than it aims to solve.

I wish eight Democrats wouldn’t have voted for it though. They’ll have to answer for it someday I’m sure. Record vote below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »


The Citizenship Test (HB 626) Passes The House - UPDATED

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 9:17 pm by wcnews

HB 626 passed the house. Gardner Selby has to vote total,

87 - 59.

Eight Democrats voted for the proposal. At least one Republican, Rep. Delwin Jones of Lubbock, voted no.

QR is also reporting on it and has more of the details of what was done to it.

Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) held off on consideration of HB 626 yesterday after hearing objections from some Democratic lawmakers that the legislation raised barriers to voting.

His latest version of the bill would require voters to either provide their place of birth if U.S.-born or the date and location of naturalization if they were born elsewhere. That represented a significant change from earlier versions of the legislation that required citizens to present a certified copy of a current passport or a birth certificate.

The sides met today but were unable to come up with a workable deal on how best to confirm a would-be voter’s citizenship. King had offered his latest iteration of the bill as the best way to ensure that only citizens were voting while not placing an undue hardship on voters. He argued that the legislation would be easy to implement as the Secretary of State already has the task of verifying voter information. HB 626 would have the added benefit of putting the burden on the state to verify citizenship instead of the individual, he argued.

Not knowing all the specifics of the amendments this from that it just seems that they’re asking the SOS to verify people that register to vote are actually citizens of the US. If that’s what actually happened than that isn’t so bad. But I don’t know if we need a law to make the SOS do that. First impression, stay tuned.

[UPDATE]: In statement on HB 626, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez calls it a “heartbreaking day in this state”. Text of statement below the fold.

[UPDATE II]: My early impressions aren’t holding up. The bill keeps looking worse and worse. Burka has more.

Read the rest of this entry »

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