04.11.07

Need A Good Laugh?

Posted in Election 2008 at 4:50 pm by wcnews

Matt Taibbi is one of the best political columnists going these days, an he’s damn funny too. If you can handle a few cuss words every now and then you’ll enjoy reading him. Here’s his latest from Alternet, Campaign Journalism Is Back, More Evil Than ‘04. It’s just a shredding of the process the American public will go through in the next 20 months. And a commentary of the media’s focus on style over substance in political campaigns. Not saying style shouldn’t be part of it but it shouldn’t be the whole thing.

But this is the way campaign journalism goes. You’ll hear quite a lot in the next 20 months about who has bony hands, who has lines on his or her face, who looks good in a parka, who can play the saxophone underwater, who is “measured” and who is “fiery” — but you won’t hear anything about who voted for the bankruptcy bill and who didn’t (Obama was a nay, incidentally; Hillary abstained).

Do yourself a favor and read it.

Judge Sets Trial Date For T. Don Hutto Lawsuit

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 1:04 pm by wcnews

Link.

AUSTIN – A federal judge has scheduled a trial in August for a lawsuit by civil liberties and immigration advocates who contend families were subjected to inhumane treatment at a center for detained immigrant families in Taylor. Judge Sam Sparks wrote that living conditions at the T. Don Hutto facility may be unsuitable, and federal officials overseeing the facility should have spent more time researching how to properly care for children in detention.

Lee Iacocca’s Had Enough!

Posted in Corruption, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The Nation at 11:56 am by wcnews

Link via Political Animal:

GET THIS MAN A BLOG!….Who said this?

We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car….I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

Answer here.

That is good stuff. Full book excerpt can be found here, Where Have All The Leaders Gone?.

That’s An Awfully Small Island

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:54 am by wcnews

Last comments on yesterday’s moratorium vote. This item from the SAEN article on it, Toll road moratorium gets overwhelming support in the House.

Krusee and four other lawmakers voted against the measure.

That’s Krusee; Deshotel; Escobar;Lucio; Merritt to be exact. And one other thing that Krusee is probably wrong about:

He urged his colleagues to consider other ways to generate highway construction money.Texas has not increased its 20-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax since 1991. The tax revenue falls far short of meeting the state’s road-building needs.

But lawmakers won’t increase the gas tax, Krusee said later: “The Legislature doesn’t want to raise taxes.”

Many lawmakers and many of the people of Texas’ eyes have been opened to the fact that toll roads, as they have been proposed in HB 3588 and the TTC, are a horrendous way to build and finance our roads. While many lawmakers may not want to raise taxes in general, raising the gas tax to free us from tolls and the TTC would be a tax increase Texans would accept, and not cause political casualties. In that context, and possibly with lawmakers like Sen. Carona and Rep. Kolkhorst on stumping for it as an alternative to tolls, the legislature not only could but probably would raise the gas tax.

Tomorrow The Sentate Takes Up The Budget - [UPDATED]

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 9:30 am by wcnews

The Texas Observer blog has a Senate Budget Primer for us.

The HChron has this story, Senate panel OKs budget with 6.8% spending boost.

Senate budget writers voted Tuesday to spend more on parks, prisons and human services than the House, but didn’t follow its lead in draining teacher incentive pay for an $800 across-the-board educator pay raise.

The $152.2 billion, two-year state budget approved 15-0 by the Senate Finance Committee represents a 6.8 percent increase in state and federal spending compared with current levels.

It includes a big boost for Medicaid services to children to settle a court case, a move it would partly fund with an across-the-board state spending cut on other services of more than half of 1 percent.

Vince at Capitol Annex has a couple of excellent posts to get everyone up to speed on what the Lege has been doing with our money. Especially regarding the recent FREW Medicaid settlement. The settlement came in much lower than expected or, shall we say, than it was budgeted for. And that may cause some problems, or opportunities, depending on one’s point of view. Here are Vince’s two posts on the subject, Medicaid Settlement: $700 Million (& Are We Budgeted Into A Corner?) and 80th Legislature: Senate Finance Committee Approves Budget, But Uses Cuts To Pay For FREW Settlement.

[UPDATE]: Burka has some info on what conservative Senators are planning:

My report was accurate then. It is still accurate now. I stand by the story, every word of it. The budget bill is out of committee, but conservative senators are working actively to round up eleven votes to block the bill from coming to the floor under the 2/3 rule. They think they can get them. This comes directly from one of the senators involved and was confirmed by another Republican senator who is not on Finance but has been privvy to the conversations.

That would be definitely make Thursday in the Senate interesting.

And much, much more from Off The Kuff.

04.10.07

Wrap-Up Of HB 1892 And The CDA/Private Equity Moratorium

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State, Williamson County at 10:58 pm by wcnews

(Vince finished liveblogging at Capitol Annex. Also see what Pat Driscoll of Move It! had to say about today’s action, now it gets interesting.)

Despite all the talk today during this debate today of tools, tool boxes, tapping the breaks, and deep breaths a 2 year moratorium bill, which includes the TTC, did pass the Texas House today. It was done without Rep. Mike Krusee having to allow it to happen through the Transportation Committee, which he chairs. It passed overwhelmingly, 134 -5-2, see RV #356. Rep. Krusee tried calling points of order on the bill itself and on Rep. Lois Kolkhorst’s amendment, which added the moratorium to the bill, and both were overruled. Capitol Letters has more on Krusee being overruled, Craddick and Krusee: Where’s the Love??

Once the toll moratorium amendment was passed Rep. Krusee then started taking out his frustration on the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). I guess the well run and inexpensive toll roads of the HCTRA, are making the proposed non-compete, CDA/private equity expensive corporate toll roads look bad, and he can’t stand for that. He did get two amendments onto the bill and at this time I’m not sure what those did to the bill.

As stated in the previous post what Rep. Kolkhorst’s amendment does is stop non-compete/CDA’s from proceeding until a 2 year “study period” on these types of agreements is completed. If the moratorium becomes law that study will be done by a commission that is created to do the study, with the Governor, Speaker and Lt. Gov. each appointing three members. The hope is that this commission will not just be a rubber stamp for these agreements but would actually do the work that Texans have needed done for years now - actually coming up with a comprehensive, equitable and fair way to build and run our transportation infrastructure, and not just roads, in Texas . With Dewhurst being the only one that will likely run statewide, those against the TTC and CDA’s may have to rely on him, and his appointees, to be the voices of reason on the commission. We will also have to hope that the Governor and Speaker will take into account the public outrage, and the just plain bad deals these agreements are, and do what is right, if not for Texans but for the sake of party.

There’s still a long way to go. The bill must get through the Senate. and if vetoed by the Governor, will have to be vetoed soon enough so that the veto can be overridden before the session ends. Much credit to Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and her stewardship of this through the House and to Rep. Wayne Smite for allowing it onto his bill. Also to all of those who voted for Rep. Kolkhorst’s amendment as well as the bill itself. Rep. Dan Gattis voted for both as did many, many Republicans. The vote on Rep. Kolkhorsts amendment and the bills passage weren’t even close. This was not a Democrat v. Republican bill it was a bipartisan take down of bad public policy. In Texas we like our roads and we want to keep them our roads. We don’t want to sell or lease them to the highest bidder. Hopefully after today there’s no longer any doubt about that.

Where It Stands

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 5:32 pm by wcnews

At this time time Rep. Kolkhorsts 2-year private equity toll moratorium amendment was accepted on HB 1892. If a vote is taken on this bill, barring an accepted point of order, it will pass the House. I still have an issue with who selects the members of this commission - three each by the Gov., Sepeaker and Lt. Gov. but at least it will stop these horrible deals from going forward for two years.

Rep. Krusee is trying to amend this again and again. His attempts now are just getting sad.

I’ll wrap-up tonight.

LIVEBLOGGING - Toll Moratorium Being Debated Now, Kolkhorst Amendment To HB 1892

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 3:32 pm by wcnews

Rep. Kolkhorst is amending HB 1892, the amendment is the two year moratorium on CDA/private equity agreements.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Kolkhorst just stated specifically that this INCLUDES the TTC.

[UPDATE]: It’s about Texas money and whether that Texas money will stay in Texas to build Texas raods or be siphoned off to investors.

Government has a basic duty to provide infrastructure. When you start selling you infrastructure you have to be alarmed.

[UPDATE]: Telling how HB 3588 Senate sponsor Sen. Ogden and former Transportation Commissioner now Sen. Nichols have turned against this.

This is about reinstilling public trust in TxDOT and in the legislature.

[UPDATE]: Will not effect Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). They’ve been offered buyouts and never took them. HCTRA is model for the nation.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Krusee (R - Corporate Toll Lover) raises a point of order on the amendment.

[UPDATE]: Point of order overruled. It’s still alive and if it gets to a vote it will pass!

[UPDATE]: Working through amendments to the amendment. Exempting some projects. Managed lanes and the NTTA SH 121- Kolkhorst not against exempting, leaving it to the will of the House - being exempted. Rep. Kolkhorst states that Cintra called SH 121 the “crown jewel” of North Texas American Tolls. NTTA says this will bankrupt them.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Truitt (R - Pro Corporate Tolls) to the rescue. Rep. Kolkhorst is now talkig about how Rep. Krusee sneaked this through the lege in 2003. This is about the things Rep. Krusee didn’t say back in 2003.

[UPDATE]: CDA learing curve since 2003 and these contracts are not good. Rep. Kolkhorst says nobody in the North Texas delegation could say that SH 121 was a good deal. Truitt says Kolkhost is trying to kill North Texas projects. Kolkhorst says she’s leaving it up to the will of the house.

Kolkhorst said Rep. Hill told her, “you never sell a producing well”. That what our highways are.

[UPDATE]: Ooh, man, getting this R’s on the record on CDA’s. Rep. Truitt and Rep. Jackson are for them.

[UPDATE]: Amendment temporarily withdrawn.

[UPDATE]: Phillips amendment: Allows County’s (County Judge and Commissioners) to use CDA’s if the wish.

[UPDATE]: I’m getting sick of the tool and tool box talk.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Phillips is giving county commissioners way too much credit and Rep. Coleman is telling him that privatizations is bad, period! Coleman asks are any county’s working on privatization? Rep. Phillips doesn’t know but wants to make sure if they do want to they can. In other words he’s trying to stop something that isn’t occurring.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Hill now calling a point of order on the bill.

[UPDATE]: Point of order overruled.

[UPDATE]: Phillips back at it. Time expired, Pickett speaking against it.

[UPDATE]: Phillips (R - Corporate Toll Lover) to close, saying the TTC was pushed down from the top.

[UPDATE]: Does anyone want their commissioners court entering into CDA’s?

[UPDATE]: Motion to table prevails 120-22-2.

[UPDATE]: He’s back, Rep. Phillips again. Now wants to let RMA’s to be able to do it. What doesn’t he understand about the word moratorium? We will stop them until we can make sure these are good deals, which they aren’t.

[UPDATE]: Pickett opposes again. He moves to table, Phillips in favor. Motion to table prevails 112-26.

[UPDATE]: Truitt wants to reconsider her amendment that was adopted earlier. Rep. Leibowitz wants to make sure the amendment doesn’t touch Bexar County, it doesn’t. Amendment is adopted.

[UPDATE]: A different Geren amendment, this one acceptable to the author, at least Geren says so. Geren amendment adopted.

[UPDATE]: Kolkhorst to close on amendment. It’s all about restoring confidence in TxDOT and the lege. Tapping the breaks and making sure non-competes (CDA), 50 year contracts and buy-backs - she calls those really scarry - are what we want to do. Here and Rep. Phillips are having one last back-and-forth.

[UPDATE]: Kolkhorst amendment passes 134-5.

[UPDATE]: Krusee has an amendment and realizes everyone is mad. Duh!

[UPDATE]: Motion to table Rep. Krusee’s amendment. Rep. Krusee doesn’t understand that this is about the moratorium. Jeez, Krusee reading transpo code on the House floor, has it come to this?

[UPDATE]: I’ll be here for a few more mins. and then you’re on your own.

[UPDATE]: Vote coming on Krusee amendment, author will take these on 3rd reading if needed. Motion to table prevails, 107-33.

[UPDATE]: Truitt amendment accepted. Krusee again on CDA’s and Harris County. This bill allows Harris County to do so.

[UPDATE]: It’s funny listening to Krusee using the same argument that’s been used against CDA’s from the beginning. This will kill free roads.

[UPDATE]: Another Krusee amendment goes down, 112-31-1.

[UPDATE]: Rep. Van Arsdale amendment, acceptable to the author,

T. Don Hutto Happenings - Hutto Walk II, Hutto Vigil VII

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:47 am by wcnews

There will be several days of protest and the continuing education of the public about what is going on, in our name, at the T. Don Hutto family lock-up. It all starts Friday with a press conference at the Capitol and culminates Sunday Night with a vigil at the lock-up in Taylor. When speaking of this facility and the people in it always must be at the forefront of the discussion that these people have done nothing illegal, they’ve come to this country seeking asylum. Congressman John Carter thinks the place is “humane and best for families”.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez is the only elected official so far who’s stood up (video here) and voiced his opposition to this atrocity - there are now 19 other members who signed onto the resolution (HCR 64) he introduced. Also notice that neither Rep. Mike Krusee nor Rep. Dan Gattis have signed onto the resolution. The resolution continues to languish in the Republican controlled State Affairs Committee in the House, Rep. David Swinford is the Chair. It’s also interesting to note that the committee has 9 members, only 2 Democrats and the only committee members to sign onto the bill are the two Democrats. KXAN did a story on the resolution last night, State Resolution Seeks Congressional Takeover Of Detention Center.

All the information on the events coming up later in the week can be seen by clicking on “Read the rest of the entry”.

Read the rest of this entry »

04.08.07

End The Weak Editorials On The Gas Tax

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 10:17 pm by wcnews

Like this one from the SAEN, Gutsy hike in gas tax belongs on the table. With lines like this in it:

Lawmakers should seriously consider pursuing legislation that indexes the gas tax to the highway index rather than the consumer index.

[…]

An indexed gas tax should receive a fair trial.

There’s nothing gutsy about this editorial or the attempt that will take place on getting the gas tax raised, first of all. Trying to prod a bunch of corporate toll frenzied politicians like Gov. Perry and Rep. Krusee to seriously consider pursuing raising the gas tax is like asking President Bush to seriously consider getting out of Iraq. And asking for it to receive a fair trial is a joke. Krusee will put it out there but only because he knows it’s guaranteed NOT to pass. No, what the SAEN should be saying is that if the legislature and the governor want to solve our transportation problems in Texas in the most economical and equitable fashion they MUST raise and index the gas tax. Now that would be gutsy.

« Previous entries · Next entries »