Rep. John Carter’s Blog & Unanswerd Questions

Posted in District 31, Williamson County at 10:36 am by wcnews

There’s not much of substance in the posts on Rep. Carter’s blog. They appear to be nothing more than the same or similar GOP talking point laden editorials that he gets printed in the small town papers around the district. The interesting part of it are the comments to his posts. Especially to his recent post, Supporting Our Troops With Words and Actions. It has a few rah-rah, misinformed comments to begin with, and then it gets serious, excerpts below the fold:

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Auditors Report On State Parks Reinforces Need For Funding

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State at 9:50 am by wcnews

That’s what I take from the Startlegram article, Agency lost fees, inflated visit data, and the report. The title of the article helps reinforce the “startle” in Starlegram. Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Robert L. Cook gives the other side.

Cook took exception to the suggestion that the agency lost millions of dollars in entrance fees.

He noted that visitation estimates dropped from more than 20 million in 2003 to less than 10 million in 2006, and at the same time receipts increased from $22.4 million to $33.1 million.

“While there is a relationship between visitation estimates and revenue collected, there are many variables that come into play — these variables include unpaid visits that take place after hours or in places we are not currently staffed to collect fees,” he said in a prepared response to the report.

“We believe that improving documentation of state park visitation will demonstrate that we did not ‘lose’ $16 million in potential entrance fees.”

The report points to deficiencies at our state parks, many of which are caused by the “flat” funding it’s received in recent years.

In a report issued Monday, the State Auditor’s Office cites several findings about the operations of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:The department lacks adequate controls to ensure that park visitation data and revenue reporting for individual state parks are accurate

There are significant deficiencies in the department’s budgeting process that hinder its ability to ensure that resources are allocated in a reasonable manner

Financial control weaknesses have led the department to underestimate its revenue and to produce inaccurate financial reports

The department “does not have an effective marketing strategy and tools to promote visitation.”

The fear is that this report will be used to justify the continued transfer of money, via the sporting goods tax, away from our state parks because of this “supposed” mismanagement.

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said the findings should not deter lawmakers from providing full funding for parks. His group and other parks advocates have called for reallocating all money from the sporting goods tax to Texas parks.

That would lead to about a $90 million annual increase. But he noted House budget writers have included only about a quarter of that amount in the current version of spending legislation.

Although the process is still in an early phase, he said the inclusion of only about $23 million in new money could portend a bad legislative session for Texas parks.

“The report should be taken seriously, but it should not stand in the way of full funding for the agency and for our parks,” he said.

If we fully fund our state parks they will be able to get all the problems that came up in this audit fixed. It’s the neglect of our state parks that have allowed them to rot and decay, literally, and it needs to stop this session. Call your elected representatives today about Rep. Harvey Hilderbran’s bill to fix this, HB 12. Especially any who’s members are on the Culture, Recreation, & Tourism Committee, and urge them to give the bill a hearing and soon. (Anyone in the Austin area Rep.’s Dukes and Howard are on that committee).

Oh This Is Funny

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 8:45 am by wcnews

Wayne Slater at the DMN has an article up about how the Texas GOP insiders - their SREC which is comparable to the Democratic Party’s SDEC - are not very enthusiastic about their filed so far. Here’s the article, Giuliani? McCain? State GOP loyalists not impressed. The leader right now is Gingrich. Here are a few candidate specific comments:

“I can definitely tell you that if John McCain were the candidate, I probably wouldn’t vote,” said Ellen Guthrie, a committee member from Tyler. She and others cited Mr. McCain’s push of campaign finance legislation and his past conflicts with Christian conservatives.


Mr. Gingrich recently admitted his past marital infidelity on James Dobson’s Christian radio show, saying his affair with a House aide was at the same time he was attacking Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Mr. Moore of Spring, who said he’d like to see a Gingrich-Jeb Bush ticket in 2008, called the affair “a minor tarnish” on an otherwise strong conservative resume.

“If he didn’t have the extramarital affair, he’d be as perfect as Reagan in every other way,” Mr. Moore said. (He is as perfect as Reagan who was divorced too).- eow


“We need a strong candidate with good name ID and a good record and someone who’s well liked and can garner some votes from independent Americans. And I think Giuliani is that guy,” said John Fowler, a GOP committee member from Dallas.

But others question whether religious conservatives would embrace a candidate such as Mr. Giuliani because of some of his moderate views on social issues.

“I’m certainly not going to support somebody that I don’t think is going to hold spending down and continue to fight the battle for the Reagan social conservative agenda,” said Jane Cansino of Lubbock. “So it’s not just about pragmatism, it’s about principle.”


“He lives his values, not just talks about them,” said Tim Hoy of Dallas.

“Many of my fellow Christians may have doubts about him being a Mormon. But if you look at the predominantly Mormon state of Utah, they have a young average population age and yet a low rate of crime, out-of-wedlock births and a high rate of intact families,” he said. “If Mormonism is a cult, with those characteristics, I would suggest that’s a cult we could use more of.”

Still, some members said they were suspicious.

“When I look at Mitt, to me he looks plastic. I’m afraid he’s just mouthing the words,” said Russ Duerstine of San Angelo. “He says a lot of the right things, but I’m not sure he’s for real.”

I don’t know about you but that’s funny stuff and I left out the pro-Tancredo, pro-Duncan Hunter comments.


How Does This Happen In Williamson County? - UPDATED

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 3:46 pm by wcnews

EOW has given Williamson County DA John Bradley credit for his stance on Jessica’s Law, and deservedly so. But we’ve also mentioned that he’s been on the wrong side of the probation reform debate, he’s not for letting criminals off the hook early. That’s why this seems very odd, Williamson deputy constable pleads guilty to solicitation of minor. ([UPDATE]: AAS updated article. It now has more info and quotes from DA Bradley).

A former Williamson County deputy constable pleaded guilty Monday to criminal solicitation of a minor, a third-degree felony.

Under a plea agreement, Roger Proctor will receive five years of deferred adjudication — a form of probation — a $2,500 fine and possibly 30 days in jail, said Tim Inman, Proctor’s attorney. Formal sentencing is set for May 1.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said his office was recommending that Proctor be required to permanently give up his peace officer license.

Proctor, 52, was charged in June with two counts of indecency with a child by contact, a second-degree felony.

A 15-year-old girl told the Williamson County sheriff’s department in June that Proctor had been touching her breasts since she was about 8 years old, an arrest affidavit said.

The victim’s older brother initially notified the sheriff’s department.

Bradley said going through a trial would have been too difficult for the victim.

“Based on not wanting to do any further damage to her, we were pleased with the result,” he said.

Proctor was put on paid administrative leave in June and was dishonorably discharged in September, county spokeswoman Connie Watson said.

Inman said Proctor no longer lives in Williamson County.

Through Watson, Precinct 3 Constable Bobby Gutierrez declined to comment.

This is a very, very light sentence for a crime of this nature in Williamson County. He didn’t even get convicted of abuse, the plead to solicitation. It just doesn’t seem right that this guy gets off without any jail time. I guess there’ll be a good explanation coming for this.

A Few Items

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State at 11:18 am by wcnews

Clay Robison had two recent articles that are worth checking out:

This one on where we stand right now in the lege, The Legislature: Halfway through, long way to go. In the print version he scored the issues this way:

Passed: Senior Tax Cuts.
Alive: Budget, TAKS, Trans-Texas Corridor, HPV Vaccine, TYC Reform and Lower Appraisal Cap.
Maybe, Maybe Not: Top 10 Percent Law, Border Security.
Dead or Dying: Vouchers, Tuition Freeze, CHIP Expansion, Gambling, Lottery Sale.

It’s good to see vouchers, gambling and the lottery sale on the dead or dying list but ceratinly not a tuition freeze and CHIP expansion. This may be one of those “do-nothing” sessoins. That would not bode well for the current leadership, especially if they don’t get something done on the TTC.

His second article is on Perry’s forgotten number one issues of the session, ‘Appraisal creep’ is losing battle.

Add another looming failure for the governor with the not-so-golden touch.It hasn’t gotten the attention that opposition to his HPV vaccine order, his Trans-Texas Corridor or his proposed lottery sale has sparked, but the 2007 edition of Gov. Rick Perry’s protracted campaign against “appraisal creep” is quietly dying in the statehouse.

Another failure indeed.

One issue that is also losing attention that definitely deserves more is probation reform. The Startlegram has an article up today on this issue, Probation overhaul hits resistance. This is another issue, like Jessica’s Law, that cannot be dealt with and understood in sound bites. We must wrap our minds around the concept that if we spend more money on the front end - better supervision and drug and alcohol rehab - we can save much more on the back end - less in life time incarceration, death row housing, and recidivism. That’s just the monetary costs, there’s no telling how much we’d save in human costs, in lives and families saved and rehabilitated.

Tom DeLay Got Skewered On Meet The Press Yesterday

Posted in Commentary, Around The Nation at 10:08 am by wcnews

I stayed up late last night and watched the Midnight rerun of “Meet The Press” this morning on MSNBC. I’m glad I did. Tom DeLay may be a skilled backroom politician but his debate skills are weak and he’s no match for retired Navy Admiral Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), Think Progress has the video. It was almost painful to watch Tom DeLay’s use weak, well worn, 5 year-old GOP talking points in his meager attempt to make a case for keeping our soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Perle was just as bad. And little-Russ only pimped his new work of fiction once.

Rep. Joe Sestak and Tom Andrews of Win Without War did a great job. I think it’s great to have Tom DeLay on TV getting skewered like this. There were a couple of times I thought ‘ol Tom was going to cry. Rep. Sestak’s even measured tone through the debate served him very well. Hopefully we will get more even-handed debates like this on the Sunday shows now that Democrats are back in charge of Congress.


Ben Wear’s Toll Road Update

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 10:54 pm by wcnews

Here’s his Monday column, March madness over tolls grips Legislature. It opens with sappy drivel about poor Last Term Krusee having to atone for the disaster he “carried” through the legislature the two sessions ago. Ben does make a great point about how much TxDOT’s lack of inclusiveness, and disrespect for the local toll authorities have played into TxDOT, Krusee and Perry’s problems. There was also a noticed change in tone. Ben had always given little, if any, chance that bills would get a hearing in Krusee’s committee, much less get through it, by chance, if that was able to happen then it would always be vetoed by Perry.

For a number of reasons — campaign trail grumbling last year, disputes with Dallas and Houston toll road agencies, lack of deference to legislators by Texas transportation commissioners, turf battles over huge pots of money suddenly coming Texas’ way — the Legislature has been gripped by a sort of March madness over tollways, particularly those that would be in private hands for a half-century.What remains to be seen is what the madness will lead to by the end of the session May 28. As transportation chairman, Krusee can, in theory, block most legislation seeking to roll back tollway powers. And Perry could veto whatever makes it to his desk.

But more than two-thirds of the Legislature has signed on to legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on concessions, contracts with private companies to build and run toll roads. Dozens of other bills limiting tollway powers have been filed. And powerful legislators, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, are talking about using the power of the purse to curb the Transportation Department.

Perry and Krusee may have no choice but to make concessions on concessions and on other prongs of their toll road agenda.

Watch the budget,” Ogden said. “At the end of the day, TxDOT can’t spend a dime without our permission. So, watch the budget.”

Yes they may. Again we read about Sen. Ogden doing the right thing and he appears fully aware of the “power of the purse” he has and doesn’t appear afraid to use it.

As posted here recently this is an issue that will cause long-term damage to the Republican Party in Texas if they don’t do something to rectify the damage they’ve allowed two very unpopular politicians in their party to cause. They can allow this to fester at their own peril.


Ogden Gets It, Krusee & Gattis Don’t

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Williamson County at 10:38 pm by wcnews

Saturday’s AAS had this article, Legislative ‘revolt’ brings bumps in legislative session. It’s a synopsis of the bad that the Republicans did in the last four years. It has some interesting parts. Especially that they’re now having to roll back much of what they did.

First, the effects of major legislation that lawmakers approved in recent years have reached the public. Several policies either have been filled with problems, such as the privatization of social services, or have struck a nerve with voters, such as the Trans-Texas Corridor. Perry, meanwhile, has tried to move forward this year with more big ideas.

Second, there is unrest among Republicans because the 2006 election results showed that they are vulnerable to defeat from within their own party or against Democrats. While GOP state candidates trounced largely unknown Democrats in November’s statewide elections, nine Republicans lost re-election bids in the primary or general election.

In addition to policy debates and electoral anxieties, a scandal erupting from allegations of sex abuse and cover-ups at the Texas Youth Commission has agitated lawmakers, who say the state agency, and the board that Perry put in charge of it, failed miserably.

When Republicans took the state House from Democrats after the 2002 elections, they assumed full control of the Capitol and unleashed a pent-up desire for major change. They steamrolled through the 2003 session intent on injecting free-market principles into state government.

That year, the Legislature paved the way for private companies to play a major role in constructing and operating toll roads and doling out public benefits. Lawmakers also gave public university regents the ability to set their own tuition rates.

Now those decisions are under scrutiny.

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The Krusee Dilemma

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 1:52 pm by wcnews

The previous post on a TTC compromise made the case that it’s an attempt by Last Term Krusee, along with TxDOT head Ric Williamson, to make themselves relevant in the transportation debate again. More than likely for Krusee, with his political future extremely shaky, he will have to do what his party’s leaders tell him to do. Which is let the bill through committee and onto the floor for debate. But from this recently discovered FWWeekly article, Brake Lights, Sen. Carona seems to think Krusee may have one last shot to save his political career if he were to get on board with scuttling the TTC:

And powerful State Sen. John Carona of Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, has introduced 10 bills that together would severely curtail private businesses’ interest in building toll roads. Among them is a measure requiring that the price paid for land taken under eminent domain be established by three disinterested voters who live in the county where the land is located, rather than by a judge. Another would limit the length of a toll-collecting contract held by a private entity to 30 years, after which the highway would become a free road. Other bills would limit toll rates rather than letting private companies set them at will, eliminate the “no compete” clauses in toll road contracts that many believe would hamper the state’s ability to maintain and improve other roads, and tie the state gas tax rate to the amount needed for highway building and maintenance, to ensure that tax funds rather than tolls could be used for those projects.

Carona admits he made a huge error in signing the measure that created the TTC. He told Fort Worth Weekly that he and nearly everyone else in the Texas Legislature were “deliberately deceived” by that bill, and that it’s time to put a halt to the TTC. At a hearing he held last week, he said, “About 1,000 people came, and the overwhelming majority were against the TTC.”

He believes an overwhelming majority of state Senate members now oppose the TTC as well, and that, as chinks begin to show in Perry’s armor, the senators are more willing to oppose him on this issue. “The fact is, the death of the TTC and other toll roads is just one gubernatorial election away,” he said. “The opposition to these things is growing daily.”

“I think the bills I’ve proposed will pass in the Senate,” Carona said. “The real question is whether they will get a fair hearing in the House Transportation Committee. I don’t know. [Chairman] Mike Krusee has the power to bury them there.

“On the other hand,” he added, “Krusee won his last election by a surprisingly narrow margin, and he will have public rage to deal with on this. Of course, if he intends to leave his position as an elected representative and enter the private sector, he may have another agenda. But if he wants re-election, he may realize that following the governor’s lead on the TTC hook, line, and sinker is not the best road for him to take.”

Krusee said he handles bills before his committee fairly. “But it’s up to every member to convince the committee that the hearing won’t be a waste of time, that there is some support and reason to listen to it.”

Coleman said he thinks the TTC can be stopped only if legislators in both houses “feel the heat and know it’s going to be an election issue.”

I suppose it would be possible. But Krusee’s been pro-toll and pro-privatization for so long it’s hard to believe anyone could take him seriously much less trust his change of heart. The bigger issue is that if Krusee knows he won’t be back next session, one way or another, then he’s go nothing to lose, a loose cannon. That means he may be setting up his own future and not much care what Tom Craddick and his Republican colleagues want.

When The Going Gets Tough, Perry Goes To Dubai

Posted in Criminal Justice, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 12:10 pm by wcnews

Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party Boyd Richie has penned a letter to Lt. Gov. David Dwwhurst and is asking for Texans to sign on.

This week, Democrats and Republicans in the legislature joined together to demand that the TYC Board be replaced and the agency be put under an independent conservatorship. Governor Perry has ignored this bipartisan outcry for real reform and abandoned Texas’s troubled youth, instead embarking on a junket to Dubai, the new home of Halliburton, and Qatar.In Perry’s absence, the responsibility now rests in the hands of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. As acting Governor, he has the power to do what jet-setter Rick Perry refused to do – appoint an independent conservator to straighten out the Texas Youth Commission and ensure the safety of all youth in their care, rather than the political safety of Republican officials.

I urge you to sign the attached letter and join both Democratic and Republican elected officials in demanding David Dewhurst take the necessary steps toward meaningful TYC reform. These abuses have gone on far too long, and there is no more time to waste. We need decisive action to reform and rebuild this troubled agency, and the Lt. Governor has a responsibility to act quickly.

Tell Lt. Gov. Dewhurst that it’s time to stop playing partisan politics with Texas youth and appoint an independent, non-partisan conservator to take over TYC and protect the health and safety of the kids under the agency’s care.

You can sign on and read the text of the letter HERE. Vince has more on Perry’s junket a Capitol Annex. Check out TexasKoas too, Now Gov. Perry is off to Dubai! On Corporations’ dime!.

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