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.


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.


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).

HB 1 Conference Committee - It’s Going To Get Messy

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature at 3:42 pm by wcnews

When reading over the several posts on the upcoming budget Conference Committee -
Budget Heads to Conference and Time for the real sausagemaking to begin - one thing came to mind. The Senate and NOT the House has become the chamber of the Legislature that pushes through the “right-wing” agenda.

In the House, CHIP was treated better, teachers got a pay raise and vouchers were defeated. But both of the posts above link to statements made by by Rep. Garnet Coleman about what would eventually happen:

Despite those overwhelming rejections, Craddick’s allies still tried to persuade members to reverse their votes. They apparently forgot that the political makeup of the House had shifted in November, leaving them short of the preliminary support needed to bring the amendments back for reconsideration. “That shows a change in the membership but not a change in the speaker and how the speaker operates,” said Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democratic leader and outspoken critic of how Republicans have stiffed public schools and social-services programs since winning control of the House.”

It was way too easy,” Coleman said of his own amendments that passed with little debate – calling for shoring up the hobbled Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program with more funding and fewer roadblocks. “The leadership did a good job of appearing moderate to get through a bad budget,” he said, “because they’ve been defeated by looking too far to the right and being draconian and evil.” The budget process now moves to the Senate and then on to conference committee for final negotiations. The amendments “will be stripped off in conference,” Coleman predicted. “Then they’ll bring the conference report back and dare people to vote against the budget.”

The five committee members from the House have been named (Chisum, Gattis, Guillen, Kolkorst, and Turner) - 3 R’s, 2 D’s. Now that Dewhurst has decided to send only five from the Senate - we’re waiting - the Senate’s will be 3 R’s, 2 D’s also. That means this will be a Republican budget compromise and Rep. Turner’s last chance to make his pro-Craddick stance defensible.

But back to my earlier point about the Senate, while it’s a less reactionary body it’s also, because of redistricting, much less accountable to the voters. What’s meant by that is that Republican Senators can vote for vouchers, against CHIP, and against a teacher pay raise, and it’s doubtful that any of them will lose their seat. Now Dave and a few Senators that may have aspirations for higher office can vote right correct against those issues - just make sure it’s not a tie so the Lt. Gov doesn’t have to go on the record - and still allow those issues to go forward. Is there an incumbent GOP Senator that could lose their seat in the next election cycle because of their vote on these issues? (Doubtful but definitely something for Democrats and Parent PAC to start looking into.) There certainly are some Republicans in the House whose seats will be vulnerable after votes on those issues.

As Rep. Coleman said the gains made in the House on the budget, that weren’t made in the Senate, will now be taken off in the conference committee. The Republican legislative leadership will once again put their membership in a tight spot - failing to protect their members from defeat - by making them take vote in a way where they will be forced to put their political life in jeopardy - making them choose between ideology over what’s right.


Today’s Tax Day!!

Posted in Commentary, Around The Nation at 5:33 pm by wcnews

Here’s a few articles to get you in the mood:

I.R.S. Audits Middle Class More Often, More Quickly

Income Gap Is Widening, Data ShowsUnpaid Taxes Tough to Recover

And this one from MYDD, Tax Trolls, about comments in realtions to his post about being proud of paying taxes.

Toddlers Are Not Terrorists

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 10:41 am by wcnews

TDH had the story on Sunday’s protest, Protesters still defiant against T. Don Hutto.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Jose Orta, founding member of the Taylor League of United Latin American Citizens Council, said. “Just by being here we are making a difference. It’s the little things that we can see happening. We’re not going to move a mountain overnight. We’ll take our victories as we get them.”


“We’re here because we think this violates everything America stands for,” Jay Johnson-Castro of Del Rio said. “There is no longer this feeling of ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ in this country. The government baits immigrants with a promise of liberty and then they profit off of their incarceration.

“This isn’t about keeping immigrants out of the country because it would be a lot cheaper to send them back home, not incarcerate them.”

According to the lease agreement between Williamson County and Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, the county agrees to subcontract all aspects of the facility’s operations to CCA. In exchange, CCA receives payment of about $2.8 million from ICE to house up to 512 inmates. The company pays the county an administrative fee of $1 per day per inmate held at the facility.

Yesterday’s Lege Action - [UPDATED]

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State at 9:45 am by wcnews

House passes appraisal relief”.

A bill designed to give homeowners some relief from rising property appraisals was tentatively approved by the House on Monday on a vote of 87-53. Supporters said House Bill 216 would give local appraisers more “wiggle room” when it comes to review by the state comptroller, who checks to make sure that local officials are appraising property at actual market value.

But as the article says:

The bill is expected to cost nearly $2 billion between now and 2012 as the state must make up for cutting back local school taxes, according to a fiscal note.

Where’s that money going to come from? This looks like it’s putting another hole in our future budgets.

Senate keeps redistricting panel alive.

A Senate bill would create a redistricting commission made up of nine citizens not holding public office, with four Republicans, four Democrats and one commission leader. Drawing up a new map of congressional districts would occur once per decade by the commission, beginning in 2011. The bill must pass once more in the Senate, then the House.

This almost looks good. If the commission leader has a vote than that, more than likely, will mean little change. That persons partisan bent will then break the ties. Both parties should have equal votes to force compromise and tough decisions being made. With a commission like this neither side should be completely happy with the outcome but it will, hopefully, be legal and fair.

[UPDATE]: Looks good, this from the SAEN, Senate backs idea of redistricting panel.

The eight voting members of the commission — four Republicans and four Democrats — would be chosen by the Legislature’s political caucuses. They would be unpaid.

Talking Good, Ignoring Bad

Posted in Health Care, The Budget, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 9:18 am by wcnews

Last week when Lt. Gov. Dewhurst wouldn’t meet with clergy members and leaders of a community action group there was much angst from the Lt. Gov. But, as with any disagreement, once the two sides meet and discuss their differences things change. The strong rhetoric, zealots and magnifiers, decreases and both sides start to make progress toward an agreement.

Most of the hourlong meeting focused on CHIP coverage and a dispute over whether enrollment should run for six or 12 months.”Let’s look at a way to have continuous coverage — as long as you are eligible — and so we talked about a number of different ways to achieve that,” Dewhurst said later.

The Network of Texas IAF Organizations, which includes San Antonio-based Communities Organized for Public Service/Metro Alliance, wants lawmakers to return the CHIP program to 12-month eligibility instead of six.

Organization leaders said details remain fuzzy on how the state would verify eligibility for the federal-state program intended to provide health insurance to children of lower-income families.

“I had a very positive impression. If he implements what he wants to see implemented, it’s going to be a positive development,” said Father Walter D’heedene, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and a leader with COPS/Metro.

Of course, there’s no possibility of this happening when one side ignores the other. I’ll give Lt. Gov. Dewhurst credit for finally acting like a leader and taking a meeting and discussing this issue with this group. But let’s not forget that this, more than likely, wouldn’t have happened without that group and a member of the media bringing this to the Lt. Gov. and our attention. Hmm…maybe talking to the people we have differences with is a way to solve problems? Nah, that’s much too simple.

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