Krusee Agrees, Ahem, To Give Moratorium Bill A Hearing

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

Ben Wear is reporting that IF the moratorium bill (SB 1267) makes it to the House Rep. Krusee will give it a hearing, Krusee will give toll ban a committee hearing.

“If it comes out of the Senate, I will give it a hearing in the House,” Krusee said. “However, I continue to think it’s a mistake to take away our cities’ only tool for building new infrastructure without giving them a replacement tool such as gas tax indexing, or more money from the state budget.”

The moratorium bill would actually take away just one tool for addressing highway needs — long-term leases with private companies to build and operate toll roads — and would do so for just two years. And the bill, as amended Wednesday in a Senate committee before that panel passed it, would exempt most projects currently on the cusp of reaching agreements. Even if the bill becomes law, the state and local toll road agencies would still be able to plan and build toll roads.

Good job Ben of clarifying Krusee’s misstatement. That’s mighty nice of Rep. Krusee to say that about a bill he knows may never get to his committee. If he was serious he could give Rep. Kolkhorst’s bill (HB 2772) a hearing. I keep looking at SB 1267l on TLO and it’s still pending in committee, and it’s on the list of bills in committee. Probably just an oversight but I’m not sure what the holdup is if it’s been passed out of the committee.

TYC Scandal Goes Nationwide

Posted in Criminal Justice, Corruption, Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:21 am by wcnews

The Washington Post has picked up the story, In Texas, Scandals Rock Juvenile Justice System.

Joseph Galloway is days away from walking out of a Texas juvenile detention center where he has been held for years beyond his original sentence — and where at age 15, he said, he endured sexual assaults by a corrections officer and a fellow inmate.

The 19-year-old never intended to tell this story, out of shame and fear of retaliation from his jailers. But he recently revealed the details to his mother, Genger, to investigators of the Texas Rangers, and now he is sharing his experiences with the public for one reason.

“I’d rather be a witness to what happened than have kids come in here and have them experience what I’ve experienced,” Galloway said in a telephone interview from the Crockett State School in East Texas. “Nobody deserves to go through the things I went through.”

Galloway is one of 550 youths who will be released from juvenile detention centers across Texas starting this week as state officials work overtime to fix a system wracked by widespread allegations of sexual and physical assaults on incarcerated children, and of coverups.

If your from Texas you’re well aware of the details contained in the story. Now the rest of the country gets to see what great leadership we’ve had in Texas in the recent past.

I Guess Texas Rush Wasn’t Getting Enough Attention

Posted in Election 2008, 80th Legislature, Commentary at 9:10 am by wcnews

The hypocrisy of what Texas Rush did and said yesterday would be stunning if, well, it wasn’t Texas Rush that did it. Being a freshman in the Senate and craving attention must be what makes him do things like this.

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick on Wednesday boycotted the first prayer delivered in the Texas Senate by a Muslim cleric, and then praised religious tolerance and freedom of speech in an address at the end of the day’s session.

“I think that it’s important that we are tolerant as a people of all faiths, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse all faiths, and that was my decision,” he said later.

“I surely believe that everyone should have the right to speak, but I didn’t want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that.”

I saw this yesterday, in relation to the Pelosi head scarf kerfuffle, and believe it applies here too:

…adding, to make the obvious point, I’ve bowed my head to “pray” in church, I’ve worn yarmulkes in Synagogue, etc. It’s called respect.

While this is well within his rights to do this it’s nothing more than political theater. He just trying to reinforce the “knuckle-draggers” on the right fringe that he’s one of them to keep them firmly in his corner for his run at governor in 2010.

Sen. Shapiro does a very good job of setting him strainght though:

Patrick’s political ally, Harris County Republican Chairman Jared Woodfill, had sharply criticized the fact that the Muslim prayer was scheduled during the week before Easter.

The timing was coincidental, said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who sponsored the cleric’s appearance at the Capitol on the Texas Muslims Legislative Day.

Shapiro is Jewish, and this also is Passover, a major Jewish holiday.

Shapiro praised Kavakci’s “extensive interfaith experience” and said he represents a “substantial constituency of Texans who deserve to be represented.”

She said she checked out his reputation with the Anti-Defamation League and other groups to “make sure he was not somebody I would be embarrassed by.”

Shapiro said she never leaves the floor when Christian ministers deliver an invocation “in Jesus’ name” and doesn’t consider her presence an endorsement of Christianity.

“I have a great respect for Christianity. I have a great respect for anyone who comes and prays. That’s what this country was based on, its freedom of religion,” she said.


In a personal privilege speech at the end of the Senate session, Patrick called the Muslim invocation an “extraordinary moment,” coming during Passover and before Easter.

“In many parts of the world, I know that Jews or Christians would not be given that same right, that same freedom,” he said.

“The imam that was here today, he was fortunate to be in this great country.”

I doubt that’s what Jesus would have done. Tolerance and respect would have served him much better but Jesus never ran for office.


Toll Moratorium (SB 1267) Gets Passed Out Of Senate Committee

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 4:11 pm by wcnews

Sal and QR are both reporting that the bill passed through committee, unanimous vote says QR:

Unanimous vote

The Senate Transportation Committee just kicked out a slightly revised version of the Nichols moratorium bill that would give a two year pause to most private equity road projects not signed at the time the legislation goes into effect.

Good news!

More Sound And Fury, CHIP Edition

Posted in Health Care, The Budget, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 10:59 am by wcnews

Exactly what the ultimate outcome will be from what happened yesterday - with the House passing the partial restoration of CHIP that was taken away four years ago - nobody, at this time, knows for sure. It will either be the beginning of a restoration process that would, hopefully, end with the full restoration next session. More than likely it was a “gift” given as retribution to a Democrat for being loyal to a Republican Speaker, and insuring his reelection. Oh, and that Speaker knows it will not survive in it’s current form in the Senate, and will not use any of his power to try and help out his loyal Democrat(s):

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DA Bradley’s Latest Cause

Posted in Criminal Justice, Around The State, Williamson County at 10:06 am by wcnews

Too much sound and fury signifying nothing, New task force sets out to stop offenders from being paroled:

The Williamson County district attorney has formed a task force to help keep convicted murderers such as Vincent Gordon from getting out of prison early.Gordon, 33, was convicted of raping and killing 85-year-old Thelma Lackey more than 16 years ago. He was arrested in 2005 and pleaded guilty to the charges in December. He was a juvenile at the time of the slaying and will be eligible for parole in 15 years.

The parole prevention task force, the first of its kind in Texas, has prepared a packet to try to convince a future parole board that Gordon ought to serve his 72-year term.

District Attorney John Bradley said he created the task force this year to try to keep violent offenders from being released early. Gordon’s is one of the first cases on which the task force has worked.

It seems like this is just DA Bradley trying to make sure there’s never a Willie Horton in Texas. Here’s a little more information on the Lackey case and what the other side has to say:

Lackey’s granddaughter, Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman, said she likes the idea but was never contacted by the task force.

Some lawyers think the task force might not have the effect Bradley is hoping to achieve.

“In some respects, there may be a little bit of cruelty in this,” said Keith Hampton, a criminal defense lawyer. “A lot of people have moved on, and they don’t want to be reminded of something bad.”

Do we have a really bad problem with violent offenders getting paroled early in Texas? Or is this just a local DA trying to make a name for himself? (Please let me know in the comments.) And from the statement below It doesn’t seem possible that Mr. Gordon will be paroled anytime soon:

Gary Cohen, a criminal defense lawyer who represents offenders in the parole review process, said he does not think the task force’s packets will affect the parole board’s decisions because in most cases, violent offenders already must serve 85 percent of their sentences.

Mr. Gordon was convicted two years ago, he was 31 years old, and was sentenced to 72 years. He’s eligible for parole in 15 years but will, in reality, serve 85 percent of his sentence or 61 years, if my math is correct. Making him 92 when he’s paroled, if he lives that long. This just seems to be DA Bradley trying to make political hay out of a problem that doesn’t exist.

Road Money Basics

Posted in Road Issues, Around The State at 9:20 am by wcnews

For 40 years, give or take, from Eisenhower through Reagan, in these United States of ours, we largely funded our roads with a broad based gas tax, and not toll roads. Much less, toll roads that corporations will make huge profits from. But when St. Ronnie came along we were told that government was bad, couldn’t do anything right and every tax, no matter how useful it was, was bad. So we stopped using the gas tax as a way to raise money to build and maintain our highways and the money started to dry up. Now we’re being told by our elected leaders, all we can do is sell, ahem, lease them to the highest bidder/toller or we’ll all be stuck in traffic from now until the end of time.

With our leaders turning a blind eye to the reasons for the mess that they’ve created, it shouldn’t come a surprise to anyone that folks like Gov. Perry and another Bush lackey were pushing this line yesterday:

Gov. Rick Perry today called in backup — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters — to urge the Legislature to stop something that key legislators have already effectively bottled up: a two-year ban on private toll road leases.

Perry and Peters said the proposed moratorium, carried in identical bills in both houses and co-sponsored by more than two-thirds of lawmakers — would increase traffic congestion and drive away businesses by delaying highway projects. And they styled state and federal gas taxes, which have been frozen at the same rates since the early 1990s, as a 20th Century relic.

“There had to be a better way, and there is,” Perry said of his emphasis on toll roads, both those built and operated by government and those put in private hands. Perry and Peters appeared together at an afternoon press conference at the Northeast Travis County headquarters of Samsung Electronics Co., and Peters earlier met with several legislators handling transportation matters. “My message to (legislators) is, ‘Don’t derail your success.’ ”

Of course it would be much better to wait and make sure what were doing is right instead of just doing something to do something and getting into a disastrous 50 year deal.

That being said, from the beginning these roads were created for corporations, not commuters, Rep. Krusee has never been shy about that. If there happened to be some benefit for the commuter too, well so much the better, as far as they’re concerned. Roads built for corporations, by corporations, with guaranteed corporate profits. There’s very little in it for the average person or family other than some of St. Roinnie’s mythical manna of “trickle on” economics, I mean “trickle down”, of course.

“Our message today is that building needed infrastructure is essential to creating jobs and attracting economic development investments in Texas. And you can’t accomplish that with a two-year moratorium on needed road projects,” Perry said.

That benefit would still be there whether Texans are forced to pay outrageous toll rates for these corporate toll roads or whether Texans were paying a much, much cheaper and more reasonable increase in the broad based gas tax to pay for freeways. Roads that would actually be built with the commuter/tax payer at the forefront of the planning along with businesses and commerce. Let’s get rid of tolls except in specific cases and get back to doing roads like we used to, by using the gas tax to pay for them.


The CHIP Debate And Rep. Turner

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary at 5:13 pm by wcnews

Let’s see If this is right.

Sylvester Turner, a Democrat and Tom Craddick loayalist, is spearheading the CHIP bill in the house. It has no chance of passing the Senate and getting signed by the governor in the form that Rep. Turner is mandating (he’s not recommending many amendments to the bill) that it be passed in the House. Therefore whatever happens to CHIP this session will be done in a conference committee, which, more than likely, will have a majority of Republicans.

So what is going on today? Well, Rep. Turner is giving cover to Republicans in the House by giving them a watered down CHIP bill that they can vote for and use in the election in 2008. They can say they voted to increase CHIP funding. He’s also giving Democrats a tough choice of either voting for this watered down bill so their opponents won’t be able to say they voted against the children in the next election. Or they can voted against this watered down bill, that everyone knows will never make through the process in its current form, and be labled as voting against the children.

Did I also mention that Rep. Turner will use this to his advantage against a primary challenger in ‘06. Not to mention how disgusting it is to have a Democrat doing the GOP’s dirty work for them. Oh yeah, and not matter what kind of a step Rep. Turner tries to say this is, it’s still a far, far cry from repairing the damage that was done to CHIP in 2003.

Of course all of this is moot if Rep. Talton calls a point of order.

TTC Disconnect

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:40 am by wcnews

With all the hemming and hawing, or flip-flopping if you like, over toll roads by state legislators, Sen. Carona specifically, there needs to be a couple of points made to bring everyone back around to what this should be all about. The reason the majority of those people showed up to the capitol, to overwhelmingly voice their opinions about a month ago, was not about whether local officials in Dallas could sell there one tiny stretch of road. Most of those people were there because they don’t want the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) being built through their farm and ranch land. That seems to be lost in all of this.

Indexing the gas tax is great, it’s long overdue, and it’s finally a step in the right direction. A gas tax is always cheaper than to tolls to pay for our roads. But what Sen. Carona and all his GOP cohorts have lost sight of is that SH 45 being a toll road is not what got people most. This little road that was sold to Cintra recently is not what got all those people to the capitol in March, although many are mad about it as well. It’s this monstrous land grab through some of the most prosperous farmland in our state that got so many people up in arms.

While it’s admirable and courageous that Sen. Carona has taken a tough and politically risky stand to do what’s right - coming out in favor of raising/indexing the gas tax - he should be aware that it’s only part of the solution. And yes we do need to have a well studied and reasoned approach to building roads for the future and toll roads done right can be a part of that solution. But his ignoring the reality that the TTC is no ordinary toll road and that a moratorium on it would be the best thing for all Texans not tied to Cintra/Zachry does not bode well.

Since Sen. Carona started moderating his statements on tolls there has been little, if any, mention of the TTC specifically when he talks about transportation issues. And that’s the question that most of those Texans that came and spoke to his committee STILL want to hear Sen. Carona’s opinion about. Sen. Carona, what do you think of the TTC, should it be built and if not, are you going to do anything to postpone and/or stop it during this legislative session? Many Senators and Representatives want an opportunity to do the will of the people of Texas and stop this disastrous project. The people of Texas thought you would give them that opportunity. At this point it’s looking like they were mistaken.

The people of Indiana fought back and won, Toll roads hit speed bumps.


Democrats Resurgent In Texas

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State, Uncategorized at 10:10 am by wcnews

BOR has this post up about Democratic doings in Tarrant County over the weekend as well as a link to this Startlegram article from over the weekend, Teacher raise could signal shift in House.

When a largely united bloc of Democrats teamed up with nearly two dozen Republicans to tack an across-the-board pay raise for schoolteachers onto the proposed state budget late Thursday, state Rep. Jim Dunnam said he felt a sea change in the Texas House.

Dunnam, a six-term lawmaker from Waco who leads the House Democratic Caucus, said the 90-56 vote for the pay raise might have been the first time since the Republicans won control of the chamber four years ago that its leaders were unable to exert their will over the rank-and-file membership on an issue of substance.

“I think what it demonstrated was that we have a working bipartisan majority that can get things done on some very key issues,” Dunnam said after House members adopted their version of the proposed $150.1 billion two-year state budget. “When we tried that two years ago or four years ago, we got rolled about every time.”

To be sure, the proposed budget, approved 132-16 in the wee hours of Friday after a debate that started at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, closely reflected the priorities of House Republican leaders.

But the priorities were far removed from the austere spending plan of 2003, when social programs were pared back and pay raises for public employees were deferred so lawmakers could bridge a $9.9 billion shortfall without asking Texans to pay higher taxes. The 2008-09 budget proposal, which must still be considered by the Senate, would expand the rolls of the state-backed Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, and increase reimbursements for doctors who treat indigent patients.

In other words it’s not perfect but it’s much, much better than it was four years ago. With Democratic gains in the last election cycle it’s made Craddick’s strong-arm tactics less effective and given GOP legislators a reason not to follow Craddick over the right-wing cliff.

What all of this says is that the GOP “my-way-or-the-highway” leadership tactics have sent Texans looking for other options, and that naturally leads Texans to start looking at the Democratic Party again. And when you compare folks like Jim Dunnam, Garnet Coleman, Hank Gilbert and the like with what the GOP is offering it’s definitely worth a look. Especially if they’re going to continue with this kind of behavior.

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