Did Rep. Krusee “Rat-Out” Texas?

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 1:19 pm by wcnews

That appears to be the case if what World Net Daily, I know, is reporting is true, Feds threaten Texas over superhighway funds plan.

(David Stall, co-founder of the website CorridorWatch.org) told WND that Ray’s letter was prompted by a request from Texas Rep. Mike Krusee, Williamson County, who sent a note to the FHWA asking for an opinion specifically on HB1892, the House version of the moratorium.

Krusee, a Republican, is a long-time supporter of the TTC toll-road project. In November 2006, he was re-elected with barely 50 percent of the vote in a campaign in which his TTC support was contested.

This “If you know what’s good for you” letter (.PDF) was sent by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to Michael Behrens, Executive Drector of TxDOT, because of a request form Rep. Mike Krusee (R - Corporate Toller).

If your bloods not boiling enough after reading that, then check out his doozy from Business Week (Tip to Sal), Roads To Riches.

In the past year, banks and private investment firms have fallen in love with public infrastructure. They’re smitten by the rich cash flows that roads, bridges, airports, parking garages, and shipping ports generate—and the monopolistic advantages that keep those cash flows as steady as a beating heart. Firms are so enamored, in fact, that they’re beginning to consider infrastructure a brand new asset class in itself.

With state and local leaders scrambling for cash to solve short-term fiscal problems, the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented burst of buying and selling. All told, some $100 billion worth of public property could change hands in the next two years, up from less than $7 billion over the past two years; a lease for the Pennsylvania Turnpike could go for more than $30 billion all by itself. “There’s a lot of value trapped in these assets,” says Mark Florian, head of North American infrastructure banking at Goldman, Sachs & Co (GS ).

There are some advantages to private control of roads, utilities, lotteries, parking garages, water systems, airports, and other properties. To pay for upkeep, private firms can raise rates at the tollbooth without fear of being penalized in the voting booth. Privateers are also freer to experiment with ideas like peak pricing, a market-based approach to relieving traffic jams. And governments are making use of the cash they’re pulling in—balancing budgets, retiring debt, investing in social programs, and on and on.

But are investors getting an even better deal? It’s a question with major policy implications as governments relinquish control of major public assets for years to come. The aggressive toll hikes embedded in deals all but guarantee pain for lower-income citizens—and enormous profits for the buyers. For example, the investors in the $3.8 billion deal for the Indiana Toll Road, struck in 2006, could break even in year 15 of the 75-year lease, on the way to reaping as much as $21 billion in profits, estimates Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER ) What’s more, some public interest groups complain that the revenue from the higher tolls inflicted on all citizens will benefit only a handful of private investors, not the commonweal (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/27/07, “A Golden Gate for Investors”).

There’s also reason to worry about the quality of service on deals that can span 100 years. The newly private toll roads are being managed well now, but owners could sell them to other parties that might not operate them as capably in the future. Already, the experience outside of toll roads has been mixed: The Atlanta city water system, for example, was so poorly managed by private owners that the government reclaimed it.

Don’t we know that here in Texas. Can you say Accenture?

A Reminder: Coming To A Toll Road Near You

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State, Uncategorized at 12:18 pm by wcnews

Toll Road pileup kills 8.

A stretch of the Indiana Toll Road where at least 12 people had died since August 2005 claimed eight more lives Thursday after a tractor-trailer rig barreled through stopped traffic, crushing several vehicles in a chain-reaction crash.

Keep this in mind as the toll road corporations use their logic to maximize shareholder wealth in Texas.

Sen. Carona, You Can’t Put Lipstick On This Pig

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 10:56 am by wcnews

It’s sad really. On March 1st Sen. John Carona (R - Dallas) held a hearing on transportation in Texas. He found out that day that he had the will of a vast majority of Texans behind him and, soon after that, a veto proof majority in both chambers to enact a two year moratorium on CDA’s, aka toll roads for corporate profit, in Texas. The moratorium would allow time for the people of Texas and lawmakers to come up with a reasoned, fair, and equitable plan to pay for and build improvements to our transportation infrastructure in Texas.

Since then he decided to compromise, when there was no need to - in much less than two years time - and came up with a watered down approach to fixing the problems created over the last two sessions. From today’s SAEN article on SB 1929 passing out of committee, Senate panel backs changes in toll road rules.

A Senate transportation committee voted Thursday for sweeping legislation that addresses many of the concerns pushing a moratorium on privately built toll roads.But Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who is a former Texas Department of Transportation commissioner and architect of the proposed two-year moratorium, opposed Senate Bill 1929. He declined to explain his opposition.

“My suspicion is that he believes the best approach is to study the issue for the next two years and then develop a comprehensive plan. What we need is less study and more action right now, otherwise we continue to go further in the hole,” said Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chair John Carona, R-Dallas, who is author of Senate Bill 1929.

As you can see Sen. Nichols is now the leader on this issue and Sen. Carona is just along for the ride. When he says “action now” it’s like he’s saying we need to do something, no matter how bad it is in the long run. More here:

His plan would shorten the contracts for private company toll roads to 40 years instead of 50-70 years as currently structured. The measure also would allow the state to buy back toll roads for a price determined by a company’s return on investment instead of future revenue considerations that would be more costly. And the bill also eliminates non-compete provisions.

“The state can build a roadway anywhere it chooses where a public-private (toll) highway might be located,” Carona said. “But if we do so within a 4-mile range of the (toll) roadway, then we have to take into consideration economics and could owe some amount of money back to the private partner.”

His bill also addresses some objections to the Trans Texas Corridor by requiring public disclosure and local participation in planning.

What Sen. Carona seems to have forgotten, and the rest of these pro-corporate tollers don’t seem to understand, is that these are bad deals, period. It doesn’t matter if they’re for 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, of 50 years. Adding state buy backs for profit, and if the state has to reimburse a corporation when it wants to build a new road that too close to the corporate toll way, are still unacceptable. And tweaking the TTC ain’t gonna make those rural folks happy.

Yes, Sen. Carona we need a two year moratorium on these horrible deals in order to make sure we get this issue right. What is eventually decided on this issue Texans will have to live with, and pay for, for generations. The people of Texas deserve these two years and during those two years, hopefully, a reasoned discussion on Texas’ transportation future will follow. Sen. Carona your original approach was much better, and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t put lipstick on this pig.


John Kelso On Voter IDiocy

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Commentary at 9:56 pm by wcnews

This is hilarious, Along with driver’s license, voters should have to show ‘right stuff’.

The Republicans say the purpose of this bill is to tackle voter fraud, but by whom?

Mexican nationals?

Yeah, sure, buddy.

Have you ever seen a pickup truck pull up to the polls on election day, and 20 undocumented workers jump out of the back and form a line?

Besides, at this point, I’m thinking voter fraud might be an improvement.


But let’s just say for argument purposes that the Republicans really are trying to keep the wrong element from voting, like maybe poor people who allegedly vote Democrat.

If that’s the case, they should tweak Brown’s bill and require voters to show up at the polls with:

•A new set of expensive golf clubs (with receipt for proof) and a box of Maxfli balls.

•A color photograph of the voter enjoying a cocktail in the West Austin News.

•The keys to the voter’s Lamborghini

•An autographed photo of Tom DeLay stuffing money in his pants.

•Several major credit cards and a stock portfolio from an offshore bank.

•The voter’s riding mower, and a photograph of his circular driveway.

•The password to get into the voter’s gated community.

•A case of Beluga.

•The voter’s membership card to the Austin Club, along with his favorite waiter.

•A bird gun just like the one Dick Cheney used.

•A receipt from the voter’s maid service, and a photo of his yacht.

•Some kind of indication that the voter doesn’t care about global warming, like saying, “So what? I hear tell polar bears can doggie paddle.”

Rep. Krusee Goes To London

Posted in 80th Legislature, Williamson County at 1:27 pm by wcnews

The Krusee follies continue, Krusee shown voting in House while in London.

It’s not every day a state legislator travels overseas while voting in the Texas House.

But that was the case today for Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, whose chief of staff told a group this morning that Krusee flew to London on Wednesday for a business meeting with Prince Charles.

Members of the Leadership Taylor 2007 group said they were told Krusee, a businessman, went to England at the request of the Prince of Wales, who wanted to discuss business development.[…]

Ted Delisi, Krusee’s political consultant, said the trip was not funded by a lobbyist — unlike trips taken by Krusee cited in a report issued this week, and subsequently amended, by Texans for Public Justice.

It’s not clear when Krusee left Texas. He was shown recording votes on the House floor into Wednesday evening. Just before 7 p.m., after a verification of votes on a proposal, House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, announced Krusee was excused on account of business.

Krusee was recorded as present in the House’s roll call today and then was shown recording votes about 25 times as members gave final approvals to measures. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who sits at the desk in front of Krusee, could be seen punching the vote button on Krusee’s desk, not an uncommon practice in the chamber.

Delisi said members voting for other members has long been a “global issue,” perhaps best addressed by Craddick.

Oops! If it’s global maybe the Prince can help?

HHS Chief Hawkins Gets Through Nominations Committee

Posted in Health Care, Privatization, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 11:59 am by wcnews

AAS has this story, Senate panel approves Hawkins. Here’s what some Senators had to say:

Chairman Mike Jackson, who said Hawkins was a scapegoat for senators’ anger at the governor, has said he postponed the vote to seek unanimous support for Hawkins, which didn’t happen.

On Wednesday, several senators told Hawkins that he needs to better communicate with the Legislature.

Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, who opposed the reappointment, questioned Hawkins about the troubled call centers that enrolled Texans in programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. He asked the executive commissioner about the case of Devante Johnson, a Houston boy who died of kidney cancer in March after his mother had difficulty renewing his Medicaid coverage. He was 14.

Hawkins acknowledged that the application was mishandled.

“Of course, we regret very much the administrative mistakes that were made in processing that case,” he told Shapleigh.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, also voted against Hawkins’ reappointment, citing the state’s now-canceled, $899 million contract with Accenture LLP for the call centers. He also cited Hawkins’ reluctance to directly answer questions about Perry’s HPV mandate.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told Hawkins that the Legislature is too often out of the loop with Hawkins’ agencies. But Watson also said: “I am convinced that you have the heart and you have the intellect and the ability to do this job well.”

On to the full Senate.

Rep. Krusee On How His Committee Works

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Williamson County, Uncategorized at 11:13 am by wcnews

“You don’t have to agree with every bill you let out.”

That was Rep. Mike Krusee’s response when questioned as to why he let a bill through his committee. What bill, HB 1274, the caption of the bill reads: Relating to the requirement of speaking and reading the English language as a condition for the issuance of a commercial driver’s license. From the above quote we are to believe that Rep. Mike Krusee didn’t agree with this bill but let it through his committee anyway. Read the whole paragraph that contained that quote and we see what’s really going on:

Now. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, chairman of Transportation, seemed amused when asked why he let the bill out of his committee – but simply said, “You don’t have to agree with every bill you let out.” True enough. He also probably knew full well that it would die on a point of order somewhere – those things aren’t that hard to find if you’re really looking – and that Craddick would have been a loony tune if he didn’t uphold it and recommit the bill.

It’s safe to assume that not much gets through Rep. Mike Krusee’s, or any other committee, that the chair doesn’t agree with. Otherwise the committee chair is just an empty seat, a tool of the Speaker and/or his party. That’s leads us to ask why, why did Rep. Krusee let this bill through his committee? And also why did this bill that, more than likely, not many Texans really care about get through his committee while a bill (HB 2772) that a vast majority of Texans, and legislators, approve of languish? Like this commenter asked:

If Kruse believes a chairman need not agree with a bill to release it from committee, he should not held up the toll moratorium against the will of the vast majority!

The real answer though is that a committee chair will let bills they disagree with through their committee, only if they know they will ultimately fail to become law (HB 1274), but not those they know will ultimately become law (HB 2772). We can only guess as to why Rep. Krusee let this bill, that he says he disagrees with, through the his committee. But, more than likely, he either bowed to the will of the Speaker, and the “wing-nuts” in his party, to allow this bill, that’s red meat to the GOP base, to get through his committee, or he’s a liar and is really for this bill.

Democratic Presidential Candidates to Debate Tonight

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The Nation at 10:07 am by dembones

Live coverage of the South Carolina Democratic Party’s “Path to the Presidency” 2008 Presidential Debate begins at 6:00pm (CDT) tonight on MSNBC. All eight Democratic presidential candidates have confirmed to attend the debate.

U.S. House Moves Forward On Iraq Timeline

Posted in Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The Nation at 9:05 am by wcnews

The bill passed the House, again, 218 - 208 with Rep. Carter voting against. This WaPo article, House Passes Iraq Pullout Timetable, had this quote from freshman representative and Iraq War Veteran Patrick Murphy (D - Pa.):

“How many more suicide bombs must kill American soldiers before this president offers a timeline for our troops to come home?”

The answer to that question can be found in this article, U.S. officials exclude car bombs in touting drop in Iraq violence.

U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren’t counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn’t include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To answer Mr. Murphy’s question if this administration doesn’t count the violence of car bombs and IED’s then, that would be never. Especially when the president says this:

President Bush explained why in a television interview on Tuesday. “If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory,” he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.Others, however, say that not counting bombing victims skews the evidence of how well the Baghdad security plan is protecting the civilian population - one of the surge’s main goals.

“Since the administration keeps saying that failure is not an option, they are redefining success in a way that suits them,” said James Denselow, an Iraq specialist at London-based Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank.

In other words, if we don’t count the violence in Iraq as violence, then everything is going just fine.


Voter IDiocy - Editorials [UPDATED]

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 11:44 pm by wcnews

They don’t like it.

DMN, Unimpeded Polls.

People who care about democracy agree on one consistently heartbreaking election result: pathetic voter turnout.

It’s particularly galling, then, that Texas House Republicans exerted maximum muscle this week in pushing for new roadblocks to the voting booth. The effort was in the name of voter security, but supporters failed to make the case that poll workers have seen any threat to speak of.

AAS, House Republicans swarm to vote … hoping that others won’t.

here is so much amiss with the voter identification bill that passed the House this week, it is hard to know what’s most offensive.

Waco Tribune, Editorial: Voter fraud? Oversold.

When asked for evidence that the problem is rampant in this great and vast state, partisans who cry “voter fraud” are strangely silent.

Corpus Chrsiti Caller, Why does Texas House want to make voting more difficult?

And now we come to one of the highlights of the legislative session: the award for the most creative solution to an essentially non-existent problem.

As seasoned Legislature-watchers will know, there is never any shortage of entries in this competition. However, as of this writing the clear leader is the Texas House’s baffling proposal to make it more rather than less difficult for Texans to vote.

[UPDATE]: HChron, Ballot barriers.

In Texas, the biggest problem facing our electoral system is the voters’ shamefully low participation in choosing our representatives and leaders. Yet instead of encouraging more people to exercise this fundamental right, some lawmakers in Austin are hard at work trying to make it more difficult to vote.


In the previous legislative session, similar ill-conceived, partisan election bills passed in the House but then expired when the Senate refused to consider them. The bills deserve the same fate this time around.

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