04.23.07

Voter IDiocy - UPDATED

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Commentary at 2:18 pm by wcnews

Rep. Leo Berman just said this, “Isn’t it true that you can bring just about anything with your name on it to prove that you are the person whose name is on the voter roll?” The answer was yes. That begs the question then doesn’t that pretty much just kill the intent of this bill? It’s a whole hell of a lot easier to forge something with just a name on it, than something with a picture as well. Also I doubt Rep. Berman or Rep. Brown have ever worked an election but most poll workers err of the side of inclusiveness and don’t want conflict in the polls. This would bring about much more of that and would also slow the check-in process down and cause longer waits to vote. But back to the main problem with this bill, this is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist and it.

[UPDATE]: Dunnam amendment, to the amendment to exempt everyone over 80, to make those 65 and older exempt from Voter IDiocy was tabled/fails 73 - 72 on verification (original vote was 71 - 68 to table).

This may become a liveblogging affair, stay tuned.

[UPDATE]: Leibowitz amendment to the amendment, bringing the exemption to 75+. Author, Rep. Brown, against. Tabled, 73 - 69. Verification coming. Verification withdrawn.

[UPDATE]: Brown amendments now sailing through.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Turner has an amendment. Those presently registered, this bill does not apply, grandfather clause.

[UPDATE]: Turner’s amendment goes down 75 - 68.

[UPDATE] 5:04 pm: Anchia’s signed affidavit amendement tabled 77 - 68.

Time’s A Wastin’

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 1:28 pm by wcnews

Ben Wear’s column today is a recap of what most of us knew a week or so ago, Big toll road bill has lawmakers nervous, better late than never. He was first on the scene with the news that Sen. Carona postponed a hearing on the “big toll road bill”, aka SB 1929, until Wednesday. While Ben’s not willing to make a prediction:

Legislating, and watching legislating, is like playing simultaneous, multilevel chess. You have to be really smart to pass bills or to predict what will pass.At this point, I’m just smart enough to refrain from predicting.

The best prediction at this point is that as far as all the pro-private tollers are considered, no news is good news. Meaning that if nothing gets done this session they’ll be happy. With the gas tax indexing bill stuck, and the moratorium bills needing to get through one chamber or the other before May 16th, so the governor’s veto can be overridden, it’s likely that nothing is exactly what will happen.

The Sham Of Voter Fraud & Voter ID Bills - Racist, Barbaric and Antidemocratic

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 11:38 am by wcnews

Last week the NY Times (In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud) and McClatchy (Campaign against alleged voter fraud fuels political tempest) did huge stories on the non-issue voter fraud is in US elections. All the while journalists like Clay Robison continue to play along.

But Democrats argue it is designed to intimidate minority voters, who overwhelmingly cast ballots for Democratic candidates.

Well Mr. Robison, if that’s not the truth then why is it being done? With no evidence of voter fraud why in the world would legislators still being going forward with a “new government program” to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?

These two bills (HB 218 and HB 626) are the culprits that are scheduled to be debated today, or some time this week, depending on the House’s progress. Calling this a partisan fight is disingenuous, it’s a fight between those on the far right, that want to shrink the number of voters, and everyone else that want as many voters as we can get - it’s called Democracy. While suppressing voter turnout is a Republican tactic (Nixon/Rove Republicans to be exact), not every Republican is for this effort. There are still some left, no pun intended, that would rather win a fair fight.

Royal Massett (via Off The Kuff) does the best job of exposing HB 218 for what it is:

HB 218 is a direct descendant of poll taxes, and of allowing only white male property owners to vote. In its effect it is racist, barbaric, antidemocratic and contrary to everything that made America great. My mother has sacrificed her life raising my severely handicapped sister and I and making this a better country. She and all mothers like her deserve the right to vote.

BOR has much more on today’s upcoming House debate, House to Debate New Ways to Suppress Voters. But here’s the short course on what’s wrong with all of this (again via Kuff) “nickel summary”:

In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.So in four years of concerted effort, the Bush Justice Department managed to come up with maybe half a dozen cases of actual voter fraud. In other words, two or three per election cycle. Mostly in rural districts for low-level offices. And because of this, we’re supposed to believe that it’s a high priority to spend millions of dollars on voter ID laws that plainly do nothing except make it harder for poor people to vote.

Can we now please put this nonsense to rest? Can we please stop writing stories that treat voter ID laws as if they’re sincerely designed to stop voter fraud? There’s no longer any excuse.

Not convinced? The Startlegram asks is it A Poll Tax?, and calls it “An insidious scheme to turn back the clock on voting rights in Texas..” Watch this video. Call your state representative now! (Krusee and Gattis).

04.22.07

The Latest On Private Toll Roads

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 3:07 pm by wcnews

This editorial in today’s SAEN, Toll road deals merit scrutiny, by Terri Hall of Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF).

Wonder why there is all the fuss over toll roads? Well, we’re not talking about traditional toll projects.

Gov. Rick Perry and his Transportation Commission are pushing private toll road deals that limit free routes and allow the private operator to charge high tolls.

[…]

The Texas Department of Transportation promises toll rates of 12 cents to 15 cents a mile, but the reality has been 44 cents up to $1.50 per mile on similar projects that just opened in Austin. When TxDOT has admitted it costs 11 cents to collect the tolls, it can’t possibly cover the operation or maintenance of that road with 12-cent to 15-cent tolls, much less pay the private toll operator its guaranteed 12 percent profit.

In fact, TxDOT’s mantra is that the private company will charge “market rate,” which essentially means tolls without limit since there will be few, if any, alternatives. Bottom line: Using CDA private toll contracts is the most expensive option for motorists. Yet the governor and his cronies claim they’re doing all this without raising taxes.

[…]

Since an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, let’s revisit the gas tax to prevent this shady widespread shift to private tolling and be done with it.

Great job Terri! Succinct and to the point.

Next the Startlegram has more, Toll road battle draws near, on Time’s A Wastin’ for the moratorium to get finished before session’s done.

But if the Legislature wants to make sure it keeps that breathing time by avoiding a veto, it had better move fast. Both chambers must agree on a bill and have it on Perry’s desk by May 16. That way, if the governor does veto it, both chambers would have time to try to override the veto before the legislative session expires May 28.

Nichols said his bill, or one of a handful of others with similar features, could easily work its way through the legislative mill before May 16. And he added that it would not be difficult to round up the two-thirds majority in both houses needed to override the veto.

If the scenario plays out, it would be the first time since 1979 for the Legislature to override a governor’s veto.

And Peter Stern has the skinny on Sen. Jeff Wentworth, Senator Jeff Wentworth sold-out Texans.

04.21.07

Hutto Next 2 Exits

Posted in Williamson County at 10:13 pm by wcnews

John Kelso of the AAS has the story, New exit sign makes Hutto a tourist destination. Best line:

State Rep. Mike Krusee (rhymes with doozy), who helped land the sign, got up and said a few words, all of them small. So they needed a podium.

04.20.07

Moratorium, Schmoratorium

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:26 am by wcnews

How many different kind of toll moratorium bills are we going to get passed through one chamber or the other this session? With amendments and exceptions for this county, that RMA or this toll entity. It should be clear to anyone who’s paid attention to this debate for the last four or five months that these are bad deals. It’s not a problem, necessarily, if individual Senators, Representatives and local officials want to sign-off and allow these rip-offs to continue. The only caveat should be that everyone should know that those elected officials are the one’s that are responsible for allowing the scheme to be built, by naming it something like the Ogden/Krusee Trans-Texas Corridor. Of course if Sen. Ogden can get the TTC stopped then he’s would have nothing to worry about.

For more on yesterday’s moratorium vote just click on this link and you can see all the items about yesterdays vote (30 - 0) on SB 1267. As stated before here several times this comment to the Move It! post on the moratorium pretty much sums up where we stand.

Gov. Rick Perry, however, opposes the moratorium, and Nichols conceded that a veto could kill the bill should the measure reach Perry’s desk.

Time’s a wastin’. There is time to override and the governor can only hold a bill ten days (Sundays excepted) without signing or vetoing or it becomes law. To get it overridden the bill would have to be to the governor in early to mid-May. No matter which moratorium bill we’re talking about (HB 1892 or SB 1267/HB2772) there’s still a long way to go. It still has to get through the other chamber, conference committee, be vetoed and then go back through both chambers to have the veto overridden before session ends. 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.

04.19.07

Free Campaign 101 Training in Williamson County

Posted in Democratic Events at 5:23 pm by Kate

Annie’s List (www.annieslist.com) is conducting a free Campaign 101 Training in Williamson County on April 28th. The program is based on the EMILY’s List model and is designed for Democratic women interested in learning more about running for office or working on a campaign. It will also provide a great opportunity to network with like-minded progressive women in Williamson County. Below is a letter from the new Executive Director, Bree Buchanan.

Dear Williamson County friends,

I’ve gone from running for office myself last November to joining Annie’s List in their work to get more progressive, Democratic women elected to office. It may seem early, but Annie’s List has already started candidate recruitment and staff training for the ‘08 election.

To ensure we have the best prepared candidates and campaigns, Annie’s List has scheduled a free Campaign Training for Saturday, April 28 (8:30 to 5) at the Holiday Inn Express in Pflugerville. You’re invited!

The training will be informative and inspiring. Those presenting include:

Robert E. Jones - our political director who came to us from EMILY’s Listand will be sharing some of their tried and true tactics

Liz Chadderdon - direct mail consultant who’s coming in from D.C. for the day (she’ll share great inside tips and make you laugh)

James Aldrete - established and successful consultant from
Austin who specializes in direct mail and television

Bree Buchanan - Annie’s List Executive Director and recent candidate for 3rd Court of Appeals

Please join us! You can register online at www.annieslist.com, or call 512-481-8100.

Hope to see you there - Bree Buchanan, J.D.

Annie’s List is a statewide political network that recruits, trains, and financially supports Democratic women candidates so that they are credible contenders.

The GOP Fruit Doesn’t Fall Very Far From The Tree - [UPDATED]

Posted in Elections, Corruption, Around The Nation, Around The State at 3:19 pm by wcnews

Reading this article, Campaign against alleged voter fraud fuels political tempest:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush’s popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

Facing nationwide voter registration drives by Democratic-leaning groups, the administration alleged widespread election fraud and endorsed proposals for tougher state and federal voter identification laws. Presidential political adviser Karl Rove alluded to the strategy in April 2006 when he railed about voter fraud in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association.

Made me think of the work the Lone Star Project did on this issue (scroll down to Defends Voting Rights):

To date, it appears that less than a dozen indictments have been handed down as a result of Abbott’s enforcement efforts. Over 4 million votes are normally cast in a Texas election. Of these, only about 40 actual ballots, less than .001 percent, are in question. Most disturbing, the individuals Abbott is prosecuting are mostly African American or Hispanic, senior citizens and Democrats. If voter fraud is in fact an “epidemic” in Texas, it is worth noting that Abbott, Perry and Williams have chosen to prosecute only a few violators, and virtually all of them are minority senior Democrats.

Now where in the world did Greg Abbott get that idea.

[UPDATE]: TDP Press Release below the fold (Click on “Read the rest of this entry”.) I swear it hit my inbox just as I pushed publish.

Read the rest of this entry »

Transportation In The 80th Lege, Where We Stand

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 12:17 pm by wcnews

Late last year Sen. John Carona (R - Dallas) endeared himself to many by appearing to be the only person of power in our state government that understood what a bad deal toll roads (as they’re currently proposed), PPP’s/CDA’s, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), are. He also seemed determined to do what was right, raise and index the gas tax, to fix Texas’ transportation problems.

Sen. Carona seemed ready to slow down, if not halt, CDA’s/PPP’s (including the TTC) saying this about them, “Within thirty years’ time, under existing comprehensive development agreements, we’ll bring free roads in this state to a condition of ruin.” He even went so far as to have a day-long hearing on the issue, which was in an auditorium instead of a hearing room to accommodate all of the Texans that wanted to speak on the issue. During the hearing much was said about the mishandling, neglect and underfunding of our transportation infrastructure in Texas over the last 15 - 20 years. As well as what was said about the destruction of valuable farmland and ancestral property, and the destruction of some people’s way of life that the TTC will cause.

After all that, and now what appears to be much behind the scenes “compromising”, Sen. Carona has pretty much given up beating ‘em and has joined ‘em. Now it’ll be hard not to believe Sen. Carona when he starts making excuses as for why he’s flip-flopped changed his mind on this issue. There’s no political will to get a gas tax increase through the lege (must start in the House anyway), local communities want and need CDA’s to get roads built now, baby steps/incremental reform, etc..but all of that pales when looking at the facts of what Sen. Carona is now pushing, allowing CDA agreements to go forward that will, in his words, bring free roads in this state to a condition of ruin.

That’s being said because of the latest bill (SB 1929) that Sen. Carona has going through the Senate. Pat Driscoll does an excellent job of pointing out what is and isn’t in the bill. Sal says the BILL CREATES 24 MINI-TXDOTS. The DMN has this article up, Transportation bill curbs agency’s powers.

Mr. Carona’s bill, which will likely face a committee vote next week, attempts to rectify some of the most controversial provisions in recent private toll-road contracts. The bill establishes procedures for the state to buy back roads after entering into private toll deals and narrows clauses that place limits on competing roads.But the bill also concedes that toll roads are a key component of the state’s future transportation strategy and gives local toll agencies such as the North Texas Tollway Authority more power to bid for toll-road contracts.

“This bill does not significantly alter the path that we’re on, which is toll proliferation,” said Terri Hall, director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a grassroots San Antonio group that opposes toll roads.

[…]

All tax bills originate in the House, where members are reluctant to raise the gas tax. But Mr. Krusee said Wednesday that measures to raise the gas tax according to an index that mirrors inflation may be more palatable if wrapped into the comprehensive bill.

“I think House members really would like to see more oversight of TxDOT, and if you gave that to them, they might stomach an index,” Mr. Krusee said. “And that’s my intention to try to do that.”

House Speaker Tom Craddick said that while he supports the notion of a gas-tax indexing bill, his office hasn’t polled members about the issue.

“Two years ago I came out in favor of gas indexing because I think we have a huge need for additional dollars for highways and construction,” Mr. Craddick said. “We’ve got to find some way to do it.”

Seeing GOP leaders saying that an indexed gas tax has a chance is an improvement, but we all know that for it to get through the legislature these leaders need to not only embrace it but twist a few arms, the governor’s as well, for it to become a reality. While that all looks and sounds good we know what happens when the sausage gets made. Mr. Carona’s initial, and probably logical, response to the toll road schemes in Texas was the correct one. Lately, with the pressure that comes with trying to do what’s right, he has tried to please everyone and is now pleasing few if any. Hopefully the finished product, if we get one, will be what’s best for Texas. In that case even if it’s not something we can all agree on at least it will be something we can all live with.

04.18.07

Tomorrow The Williamson County Chamber’s Of Commerce Go Lobby The Lege

Posted in 80th Legislature, Williamson County at 5:32 pm by wcnews

They call it Williamson County Legislative Day - flyer (.doc).

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