Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Did You Expect Something Different?

Our state government was unable to pass a school finance/property tax reform package during the 79th Legislature. That appears to be good for Texas but bad for the governor. I believe that the Republicans have reached the end of their tax-cutting line. They cannot cut taxes any further without obliterating worthwhile programs which most people agree the government should pay for, like public schools; health care for the young, sick and elderly; roads; etc. They are stuck. That is why they couldn't get a compromise worked out this session. One way or another, they were going to have to piss off one of their constituents, and they couldn't agree on which one--their constituents being those that fund their campaigns and not the people of Texas, of course. The poor people don't have any more money, the middle class is quickly running out of money, so that leaves only the rich left with money. The Republicans can only get out of this jam by raising taxes on the rich. Oh, isn't that rich?! And it appears that it will be left to the activist Texas Supreme Court to make the final decision.

There are several more post-session analyses which I will link below. As I read over them, I think they show how out of touch the Republican leaders of this state are with most Texans. Their being out of touch is an issue, along with their not being accountable to the people of Texas. These two issues need to be voiced (and printed) over and over again.

Read this analysis of the budget that passed this session. Some would have you believe the it's the most generous budget ever approved by any government in the history of the world, when all they did was put back some of the things they took out last session. When you read that statement, you can no longer wonder (if you still did) why Texas ranks so close to the bottom in everything. It's been the Republican plan for decades now to starve government of its funding and create economic problems that force local, state, and the federal government to cut social programs. I hope you're not surprised that now, when they have the control, they are doing exactly what they said they would do.

Let The Analysis Begin

Editorial Boards Across the State Hammer the Lege


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Monday, May 30, 2005

Liberty Hill Fire Department's 2nd Annual Expo & Parade

This Saturday June 4, 2005

If you can attend please e-mail Jane Van Praag (jlvanpraag@sbcglobal.net) by Thursday at the latest. Please attend if you can. Jim Stauber (Our District 20 House Candidate) has taken care of the pre-registration.So everyone meet at the entrance to Panther Stadium located off Loop 332 for the check in and line up at 9:00 a.m. Jim has a driver for his truck, Charlie Sulak, who will be pulling the float.

Judging will begin at 9:15 in the categories of Most Creative Business, Best Overall Business, Best Overall Individual, Best Overall Organization, Judges' Choice, and Sweepstakes Trophy. So I wouldn't be surprised if we win on the trophies too!

We need plenty of marchers alongside, carrying both our banner and our Vote Democrat signs, while waving and handing our literature. Come and show Liberty Hill that Democrats are alive and well in Williamson County!


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Soechting On The 79th Lege

The Texas Democratic Party chair makes a statement about the 79th session:
THE THREE LESSONS FROM THE 79TH LEGISLATURE

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting said that the abject failure of state leaders in the regular legislative session ending today carries three lessons for Texas voters.

"The first lesson of this failed session is that Rick Perry is a lousy leader who leaves early and arrives late," Soechting said.

Gov. Perry was again criticized by lawmakers this session for his absence until the final hours, after its was too late to forge a compromise on most of the major issues Perry had claimed to champion when the session convened.

"The second lesson of this failed session is that Republicans don't know how to govern and don't care enough to learn," Soechting said.

GOP leaders succumbed to an ultra-partisan style that prevented them from negotiating in good faith, turning the Texas Capitol into a Washington, D.C.-style center of intransigence and gridlock.

"The third lesson of this failed session is that if Texans want change, they're going to have to vote for it," Soechting said.

Democrats are fielding outstanding candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in races from top to bottom on next year's ballot, Soechting said.

Republicans failed to deliver substantial property tax relief, school finance reform, and other promises this session, Soechting noted. Instead, they voted for the single-biggest tax bill and single-biggest spending increase in state history while still failing to adequately address the issues of concern to mainstream Texans.

"Republicans asked for our trust and then violated it," Soechting said. "They have forfeited their right to expect our trust again."
The Democrats in Texas will finally have many issues to run on in the coming election. How about this for a slogan: The Republicans Hadn't Controlled Texas since Reconstruction and Now You Know Why!


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We Have Issues For '06

With the main item on the agenda for this session left unaccomplished the finger pointing has begun. Great post session wrap-up from InThePinkTexas, Dewhurst vs. Craddick: In Praise of Gridlock. Here are a couple of excerpts:
So what’s new here? The players. The Republicans rule the House and Senate roosts. The Governor’s Mansion, too. The House sent a truckload of white Republican legislators to the conference committees on HB2 and HB3. Nobody’s ever accused Steve Ogden of being a closet liberal. They all look alike. They all talk alike. They all vote alike. Alas, they can’t stop fighting with each other.

[and]

Today’s scrape isn’t a Democrats vs. Republicans fight. Not urban vs. rural. Not Valley vs. suburbia. Those conflicts actually involve ideas and intelligent arguments about real issues affecting real people. (Or at least they can.)

Today’s arguments are about how to best facilitate our state’s unencumbered race to the bottom. In the price and quality of our education. In spending on the most vulnerable among us. In the distribution of tax burden. In environmental quality. We have problems that need to be fixed. This just ain’t the crowd to fix them.

The state’s current leadership is presiding over the complete unraveling of state government, and it’s no accident. With one hand they are choking off any income for the state. With the other, they are stripping away the government’s power to protect its citizens. They may be foolish, but they’re not fools. They are running us into the ground with their eyes wide open.
The Governor is in serious trouble now that his self-described #1 issue went down the tubes. I don't think another special session will do him any good either.


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HB 2702

The “agreement” on HB 2702 is classic end of session politicking: Resurrected transportation legislation passes Senate. Thought to be dead several times, it was just too important to let die, or so it appears. This appears to be the meat of what was accomplished by this bill:
But it also dramatically raises the ceiling for how much gas tax money the state can use on toll roads, essentially allowing all of the allocation for metropolitan areas to go to turnpikes. For toll roads other than those in the Trans-Texas Corridor, it specifically allows the state to acquire private land and then build hotels, restaurants and other commercial facilities on that land.

HB 2702, requires private operators of state-owned toll roads to get approval of their "methodology" for setting toll rates. But it does not require the Texas Transportation Commission to approve the actual rates.

"In other states, having the commission come back every time there needs to be a change in toll rates has been problematic," (Problematic for who?) said state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, the House sponsor of the legislation. "Because of that history (What history?), the bond market has been very wary of getting involved in a project where a political body has to set every rate."
I see. If a rate hike were subject to the will of the people that would be problematic because it would make the bond market wary. Now I get it! Also, the the private operators get to set the toll rate with only the “methodology” having to be approved by the Transportation Commission. That's the same thing, right? As with Rep. Krusee's MO, you can see that the main objective is making sure that taxpayer money goes to building toll roads run by “private operators” and that there is as little government oversight as possible.

Doesn't it just make you go "Hmmmm...."?


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Friday, May 27, 2005

From the Hill Country News we learn of the upcoming budget fight. Or as Frankie Limmer says, "This will be the most difficult budget since I've been on the court". The two main problems our county is facing, as far as the commissioners are concerned, are recruiting new sheriffs and increased spending for social services.But later in the article we find this about limiting health care benefits for dependents of retirees under age 65:
"Other current retirees and any future retirees with dependents under age 65 will lose dependent coverage when the dependent reaches age 65. Retirees will continue to have individual coverage until they reach the age of 65," stated a memo presented by County Attorney Jana Duty.
It's hard to tell by the way the article is written but I believe these are retired county employees. The minutes from this weeek's meeting are not posted yet and If someone can help clarify that would be great.

Now back to the budget. The county, from the what the commissioners are saying, is having financial problems and can't recruit new sheriffs because of previous scandals, competition from neighboring counties and a lack of qualified applicants.





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Thursday, May 26, 2005

STATEMENT FROM PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL IN TRMPAC CASE

- Joint Statement from David Richards, Joe Crews, Cris Feldman Regarding
Ruling Today By Judge Hart -

Today¹s opinion is an important first step in holding accountable Texans for
a Republican Majority for its illegal use of secret corporate cash in the
2002 Texas state elections. The Court held hat TRMPAC Treasurer Bill Ceverha failed to report corporate campaign contributions and expenditures to the public. Basic provisions in the Texas Election Code were evenly and fairly applied, sending a clear message that the rule of law applies equally to
all.


PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL WILL HAVE A PRESS AVAILABILITY AT 2:00 P.M.

BASEMENT 1005 CONGRESS







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Judge Rules On TRMPAC

STATEMENT BY CHARLES SOECHTING

Judge Hart's landmark decision that TRMPAC failed to report $532,000 in
corporate contributions makes two things very clear: there was an illegal
conspiracy in 2002 to break Texas law, and Tom DeLay and Tom Craddick were at the center of that conspiracy.

Everything since then -- the takeover of state government by extremist
politicians paid for by corporate interests, the unprecedented mid-decade
redistricting to give the GOP seats it couldn't win at the ballot box, the
failure of Texas Republicans to address the state's most pressing public
policy challenges -- flows from the illegal conspiracy directed by Tom DeLay
and Tom Craddick.

Bankrupt public schools? Eligible children stripped of their health
insurance? Soaring college tuition rates? No ethics reform? The highest
homeowners' insurance rates in the nation? Blame it on the illegal
conspiracy directed by Tom DeLay and Tom Craddick.

Statesman Article
TRMPAC violated state law, judge rules
The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority violated state election laws when he did not disclose more than $600,000 in corporate money the committee spent during the 2002 legislative campaigns, state District Judge Joe Hart ruled this morning.




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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Karen Felthauser's Press Release Filing For District 52

KAREN FELTHAUSER FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE CAMPAIGN

Contact:
Karen Felthauser for State Representative Dist. 52 Phone: 512-218-4943
1102 St Williams Ave. Email: karenfelthauser06@austin.rr.com
Round Rock, TX 78681

PRESS RELEASE---FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

KAREN FELTHAUSER ANNOUNCES HER CANDIDACY FOR THE 52ND DISTRICT SEAT OF THE TEXAS HOUSE

Williamson County Democrat Files Campaign Treasurer Appointment for District 52 Run

Karen Felthauser filed a campaign treasurer appointment on Thursday May 12, with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for State Representative for the 52nd District. Karen ran as a write-in candidate during the 2004 election cycle but has decided to start early for 2006, running this time as a Democratic candidate. In September of 2004 she filed with the Secretary of State’s office with 615 validated signatures from Williamson County’s District 52 residents. Karen and the 27 other people who helped circulate the petition, spoke with and registered many county residents. Karen is counting on the help of these past supporters for her second run for the Texas House.


Karen is a certified teacher, who substitutes in Round Rock ISD. She is the mother of 5 and the wife of Jim, a software engineer. Karen is a member of Education Round Rock, the Texas Federation of Teachers, the Texas State Teachers Association and two PTA’s. Karen has a B.S. in Geology and a B.S. in Environmental Psychology from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. After graduating Karen worked for Ford, Bacon and Davis, an engineering firm.

“I choose to run again because I think we must address the very real needs of Williamson County’s District 52 residents. These needs include education, healthcare and transportation development. I am concerned that once again the 79th Texas legislative session in 2005 has not properly prioritized the issues facing Texas. The following is Karen’s position on the priority issues:

Education is a Smart Investment in our Future

We need to provide additional training and better support for struggling teachers and schools. Texas is 34th in the nation for per pupil expenditures. We have seen increasing class sizes, fewer electives, sports programs being forced outside the school day, coaches being asked to teach more academic classes and we are having elementary teachers teach two grade levels at the same time! The level of state funding for public education is down to 38%, the lowest level since WWII. The state is under court order to find more money for education and yet the 2005 legislative session has failed to address the underfunding of education in Texas. Even the best proposals do little more than restore the monies taken from education during the 2003 session.

We need to invest in higher education as well to ensure a prosperous future for our children and our state. During the 2003 legislative session $259 million was cut from higher education funding. This was done despite the fact that Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn asserts, "Every dollar invested in our state's higher education system pumps more than five dollars into our Texas economy." In the 2003 legislative session college tuitions were deregulated. Consequently during 2004 college costs skyrocketed. Tuition at Texas Tech went up by 65% in just one year.(1) These high rates are making it harder and harder for working families to afford a college education for their children. Despite this fact, the 2005 legislature is once again underfunding the Texas Grants program, which would help working families pay a portion of the expense of sending their kids to college. All families who are eligible for Texas Grants will not get them under current proposals in the legislature.

Healthcare is a Priority

We need to insure the health of our citizens, especially that of our children so they are prepared to learn. During the 2003 legislative session drastic cuts were made to Medicaid and $200 million were cut from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Since the federal government matches each dollar invested by the state with $2.59, this was an effective cut of 718 million dollars from CHIP. (2) Besides being forced to remove thousands of previously covered children, deep cuts to other services including dental and vision coverage, hospice care and mental health care among others were made. During the 2005 session serious consideration is being made for the restoration of dental, vision and hospice funding but other restorations have been languishing in committees and further cuts for legal immigrant children have been proposed in the House!(3)

Transportation Funding Must be Fair and Fiscally Responsible

We need to pay for our transportation infrastructure with a broad based tax, not one placing a heavy burden on commuters. While I firmly believe in the necessity of transportation development, I feel the decision to fund this development with tolls is ill conceived. Road Construction is an area best addressed by good government, not by for profit, often foreign companies. When constructing toll roads 40 to 50% of the costs are wasted in the infrastructure used to collect the tolls.(4) This money could be better spent.

Failure to Invest in Our Future is Irresponsible, not a Bragging Right

Many of our current representatives often stand in front of us boasting of having not raised our taxes. But what they have really done is push expenses for the necessary services down to the local level forcing regressive, backdoor taxes. This is causing high property taxes, skyrocketing college tuition and outrageous toll road schemes. Some attempts have been made to deal with high property taxes during this legislative session; however proposals made to date would create an even more regressive tax structure than the one we currently have!

I believe Texas can do better than this. Money spent on education, health care and an improved transportation system for our citizens is an investment in our future.

Texas needs to invest in Texans!

1) http://www.universitydaily.net/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/03/01/4042a011f2253?in_archive=1 &
http://www.orgs.ttu.edu/opportunity/documents /ProcessforDesignatedTuitionIncreaseSpring2004.pdf
2) Texas Blamed for Decline in Children’s Insurance, Austin American-Statesman Editorial, Sunday August 01, 2004.
3) http://www.cppp.org/files/3/POP%20241%20alert%20CHIP%20status.pdf
4) http://www.austintollparty.com


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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Out Of Step On Probation Reform

Anyone that has spent time in or around Williamson County knows that it has a reputation for locking people up and throwing away the key. Whether that is justified or not may be up for debate but just ask around if you want to know if it's true. Which brings us to probation reform. If you'll read this,
Williamson DA out to weaken probation system
, which I got via OffTheKuff, you'll realize that the only people against this probation reform going forward are the Williamson County DA and Governor Perry. I especially liked this part where our DA is shown to be a shill for the governor, (Ward is the AAS writer of this article):
In retrospect, Ward could have just as easily attributed the committee's rejection to Williamson DA John Bradley, who spent an hour or so before the hearing huddled with the Governor's staff in the hall outside the meeting room. He was the only person to testify in opposition. (At the time he spoke, the gutting amendments had apparently just been sprung on Whitmire out in the hall.) Bradley's suggested changes were more or less identical to those Ward attributed to the Governor - in particular, disallowing early release if a probationer has any new crime above a traffic-ticket-level offense, or for probationers who are behind on their fees.
The House vote on this bill, HB 2193, was 90-48 with both Rep. Gattis and Krusee voting against this bill. Many Republicans voted for this bill but not ours. This is just another example that shows how out of step our representation is in Williamson County.







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Monday, May 23, 2005

The Latest On HB 2702

HB 2702, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) clean-up bill of HB 3588 from the last legislature, has passed the Senate and is headed to conference committee. Here are the main sticking points:
Because the Senate-passed measure contains different wording and provisions than the version approved earlier by the House, the legislation now goes to a conference committee to resolve the differences.

The Senate version:

* Would require a public vote for all conversions of existing roads to toll roads.

* Would remove the ability of the state to purchase land on the Trans-Texas Corridor and use it for a garage, store, restaurant or hotel. The House version would continue to allow such uses.

* Would require that gas stations and convenience stores on the Trans-Texas Corridor be in the median, not outside the lanes, and be no closer than five miles from regular entrances or exits.

* Would require state or local governments to regulate toll rates, rather than granting that authority to private toll road concessionaires. The conference committee probably will be led by Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the sponsors of the House and Senate versions.
On those points above this bill appears to make some improvements to the TTC -- which has nothing to do with whether or not this project should exist, it's just making a bad bill better -- and Rep. Krusee seems to have caved and will allow public votes on conversions, the house engrossed version had this:
The bill would require the approval of the county commissioners and the voters of affected counties before TxDOT could convert to a non-tolled state highway into a tolled highway.
Don't think it's over, the bill that passed the Senate looks OK. But what the final bill will look like still depends on who gets on that committee and what decisions they decide. Comments anyone?


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Friday, May 20, 2005

More From Chairman Soechting

“IT'S OFFICIAL: REPUBLICANS CAN'T GOVERN"
"It's official: Republicans can't govern," Soechting said. "They have become living proof of the Peter Principle -- mediocre management will always attain the highest level of its incompetence."

Soechting said the 'tax-and-spend Republicans' in charge of state government have failed to meet their stated goals of reforming public school funding and delivering significant local property tax relief.

"They have simultaneously raised taxes and cut services," Soechting said.

[and]

Soechting noted that even the troubled Child Protective Services agency, declared an emergency by GOP Gov. Rick Perry before the start of the legislative session, has been shortchanged by Republican lawmakers in the current budget.

"The uniform disappointment Texans feel with the current Republican leadership crosses partisan, regional, ethnic, and gender lines," Soechting said. "It is one thing to advocate for less government or even for more government, but when Texans look at the Republicans in charge, what they long for most is better government."
I couldn't agree more. The Austin Chronicle thinks so too, It Just Doesn't Add Up
Now that educator groups and a recent opinion poll have weighed in on the Legislature's handling of school finance, it appears that House and Senate leaders have yet to convince Texans of their abilities to craft a sound education package. No number of self-congratulatory speeches will convince us that they've solved the big mystery this time.


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A New Think Tank, The Texas Research Foundation

OffTheKuff tells us of a meeting in Houston last night by the founders of the The Texas Research Foundation. The HoustonDemocrats blog has more details on the effort, New Think Tank to Arm Texas Progressives in War of Ideas.






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Rep. Mike Krusee's Bill To Raise Taxes Passes The Senate

Rep. Mike Krusee's Tax (increase) amendment passes Senate, otherwise known as HB 1734. Now don't get me wrong here, this was a bipartisan effort in both houses to allow this to pass. This is another in a long history of bills passed in our state and around the country to raise the hotel/motel occupancy tax and use the money, "for the enhancement and upgrading of sports facilities and fields by certain municipalities".
House Bill 1734, authored by Rep Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), passed the Senate with a unanimous vote. It raises the county population cap from 290,000 to 1 million and allows nine counties, including Collin County, to use the funding generated by the hotel occupancy tax towards sports facilities and events.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought all Republicans believed all taxes are evil? I guess only when raising taxes is for children's healthcare, schools, etc., but not when it's for "enhancing sports facilities"? Is that about right?

What the hell are all the Democrats doing voting for this though? We need to start drawing distinct contrasts between what we stand for and what Republicans stand for. Raising the occupancy tax has long been a favorite of all politicians. They feel it's a safe tax to raise because they are raising taxes on someone they are not accountable to, I know, there I go again. This is not a huge issue but it is an opportunity lost. This is an issue most taxpayers think is horrible. It is corporate/business welfare, not economic development, what do you say Cedar Park? We need to start piling up issues like this where the Republicans favor frivolous special interests like this over taking care of real problems.


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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Do You Ever Wonder Why?

Well I sure do. Not to steal Andy Rooney's line but for a while now I've been wondering why, suddenly, do all the new highways have to have a toll on them? One thing to keep in my here is that the use of toll roads and the dislike of them is nothing new. As this history of toll roads shows us, as well as the act of shuntpiking, as a way of boycotting toll roads. Now in my opinion the main difference between tolls roads and what I will call highways -- like interstate highways -- is who pays.

Bare with me for a minute. With the building of the interstate highway system a precedent was established that the federal government would pay the majority of the costs to build roads throughout the country. Building this infrastructure would be good for the economy and society in many ways, i.e., transport goods, get people to work and recreation, visiting family and friends. It was determined to be a worthwhile project, it had public and bipartisan support spanning several decades. Then of course, in the '80's, government was deemed evil and taxes the most evil thing on the face of the earth.

This is where the who pays comes in. Up and until the '80's the wealthy paid considerably more in income taxes than they do today, and when the interstate highway system was started they paid much more. Republicans have always tried to make a big issue of the fact that JFK wanted to lower taxes in order to spur economic growth when he was president. That was true, but when he took office the top tax bracket was 91%. You see when the federal government is bringing in that kind of money it can afford to pay for many worthwhile things. By the time Jimmy Carter left office the top tax bracket was down to 70%, by 1982 it was 50% and with that came the onset of massive deficits. Eventually in the late '80's it got as low as 28%, H. W. Bush raised it up to 31% and didn't get a second term, Clinton raised it to 39.6% -- and wiped out the deficit -- and today it is at 35% and the deficit is again skyrocketing.

But how does all this pertain to toll roads? Well with the federal government no longer able to provide the bulk of the money to build roads, the states are left to foot the bill. With our state being run by Republicans they will not raise taxes on the wealthy, so they will employ a regressive toll/tax to pay for highways, which places the burden more on the poor and middle class.

By lowering of the tax burden on those who have received the most benefit of the freedoms this country has to offer, the poor and the middle class are left to pay the toll for building roads.

The tax rate statistics are from here.

This article, Toll roads, tax roads or both?, is from last week's Hill Country News and talks about how to defer the cost of tolls by allowing local governments can impose a gas tax, HB 3540:
Article 15 would authorize certain counties in or adjacent to a regional mobility authority to impose a local option gasoline tax of up to ten cents per gallon. Counties would transfer the proceeds to mobility authorities. Proceeds could be used only to reduce or waive tolls or reduce the number of miles of roadway subject to tolls. A county with a population of more than 2 million could not impose the tax.
Doesn't that sound great?


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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Chairman Soechting Lays It Out

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that one of my big points is accountability. When you have one party rule whether it's in your county, city, state or federal government there is no accountability. Right now we have there is no accountability in my county, state or federal government because the Republicans hold every office in all of those governments. When there is no accountability then Republicans can do something they say they are fundamentally against -- raising taxes and raising spending -- and not have to pay a price at the ballot box. That is what, I believe, Chairman Soechting is getting at, TAX-AND-SPEND REPUBLICANS' ARGUE WITH THEMSELVES OVER STATE'S BIGGEST BUDGET EVER:
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting today said that the GOP's transformation into 'Tax-and-Spend Republicans' is now complete as lawmakers from the party once known for fiscal conservatism argue over a state budget of historic proportions fueled by the single-biggest tax increase in Texas history.

"Middle-class Texans everywhere ought to be sitting on their wallets and hiding their pocketbooks," Soechting said. "The era of Tax-and-Spend Republicans is upon us."

Soechting noted that the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature this session passed tax bills that far surpass any previous tax increases in state history. The 12-percent hike in state spending contained in the proposed budget is paid for by raising the sales tax to the highest levels in the nation, creating new taxes on basic consumer items like bottled water, and imposing new taxes on approximately one million Texas small businesses.

Moreover, Soechting said, the final taxing decisions will be made by appointed House-Senate panels that fail to reflect the rich diversity of Texas.

"In the House, Tom Craddick looked out over a roomful of nearly 150 members and selected the five who look most like him," Soechting said. "In the Senate, David Dewhurst did the same and decided to let a single appointee -- Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo -- represent the women and the minority communities of our state."

Despite raising more taxes and spending more tax dollars than any other Legislature in Texas history, the proposed state budget still manages to shortchange public schools, children's health benefits, and middle-class homeowners who were promised significant property-tax relief this session.
Bravo chairman, keep up the good work!




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Session's Almost Over, Let The Partying Begin!

As the 79th Legislative session comes to a close along with the coming of summer it's also time to being partying! Parties paid for by lobbyists a red flag for some:
The end of the legislative session is near, so let the parties begin.

And let the lobby pay for them.

With less than two weeks until lawmakers adjourn, House committees are taking up their long-standing tradition of celebratory dinners that mark the end of 140 days of grueling work and long nights.

And most of them are sponsored by groups that have had direct contact with those committees on legislation of great importance to them throughout the session – drawing the ire of some consumer groups who say the dinners have turned from a thankful gesture among lawmakers to an act of influence peddling.

At best, they say, the dinners create an appearance of impropriety. At worst, they fear, lobbyists for industries and groups are buying access for special interests whose issues have been before the committees all session.
Time to get rid of all that stress of being lobbied by corporate special interests for the past 140 days by allowing them a little access:
About 80 people are feeding Rep. Kino Flores' Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee at a local restaurant. Each of the sponsors is forking over about $30, he said.

The Mission Democrat denied that any influence was being traded, saying the lobby gets "face-to-face contact."

"If anything, it's access," he said. "That's what they're really buying is access – not influence."
To be sure it's not just Republicans that allow access plenty of Democrats allow access as well. Where does Rep. Krusee stand on all of this?
The Texas Council of Engineering Companies and a contractors' group, often on opposite sides of issues, are both feeding the Transportation Committee at the lakeside restaurant Hula Hut. The panel's chairman, Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, said that was done on purpose.

"You have competing interests, so I didn't want to make it seem like one guy had an advantage over everyone else," he said.
No, you sure wouldn't want it to "seem" that way.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Belated Update, Granger Lakefest

I received this information from Jane Van Praag:

I am happy to report that our participation in the Granger Lakefest Parade, and subsequent tabling was a great success--we
* have the best float no amount of money could buy, and it's reusable!
* collected $113
* registered 5 voters
* not counting donations for Jim Stauber's campaign and
* at least 5 pages of signatures for the petition to waive his filing fee

Sounds productive and looks like fun was had by all. See the pictures Below and many, many more here.


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House District 20 Candidate Jim Stauber. Posted by Hello


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Democrats In Action Posted by Hello


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The WCDP Float Posted by Hello


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Statesman Fluff Piece On Rep. Gattis

Yesterday the Austin American Statesman did a feel good piece on Rep. Dan Gattis, Williamson County lawmaker makes name for himself. In these parts he is many times forgotten because Rep. Mike Krusee takes the limelight so often with all the toll roads he is building.As we find out in this piece Rep. Gattis is on the fast track to power in the GOP:
"Real power," Gattis said later, recalling Haggerty's words, "is strength under control."

[and]

His principled fiscal conservatism draws on the values and the faith of a family rooted for generations in Williamson County.

[and]

The world of government is split in two like the fantasy action world of the movie "The Matrix," Gattis said. Life on the surface is serene.

"It's down below, beneath the surface, where things can scare you to death," he said. "It's down in the depths here in the House where you learn how to get the money to go from here to there. I think learning how it works has value, no matter what else you want to do."

[and]

"He's steady and true to the people who sent him here, but he's a good thinker, not one who gets locked into one position or another," Swinford, R-Dumas, said. "I'm old enough to be his daddy, and I'd be proud if he were my son. He has a bright, bright future here."

[and]

This reservoir of farming, child raising, Bible studying, and Scottish and Irish and German forebears influenced his decision to go to Texas A&M University, a school defined by its discipline and tradition.

[and]

When asked about school, Gattis never utters the word "career."

"What I was doing was learning to be a gentleman, which ain't easy," he said.
Has Rep. Gattis been fitted for his halo yet? If you read this Rep. Gattis seems like the perfect legislator. So why has he still done nothing to correct the mistake that was made last session? Here is my post from March about this, Why Has Representative Gattis Failed, So Far, To Fix His Mistake? and here is the Star-Telegram article on this, Public could learn which doctors defraud Medicaid:
Nelson's bill would allow public access to details of fraud investigations once they are completed. That information was available until Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, wrote an amendment to the bill that consolidated state health and human services agencies.

Gattis told the Star-Telegram in November 2003 that he didn't intend to block access to details about completed investigations and that he believed state bureaucrats were misinterpreting the law. If the confusion wasn't straightened out, Gattis said, the problem would be fixed.

However, he does not appear to have introduced any legislation to open the records, based on a search of pending bills. Gattis did not return several phone calls from the Star-Telegram this week.
Wouldn't a "gentleman" fix a mistake he has already owned up to? I believe the bill that will remedy the problem, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is SB 130 and you'll notice Sen. Nelson has no gentlemen helping her to get it passed. I guess this problem just got lost in the Matrix below the surface that Rep. Gattis told us about?


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Sunday, May 15, 2005

John Carter Thinks Tom DeLay Is Getting Screwed

This is no surprise but our Congressman John Carter, who I'm thinking of referring to from here on out as #6, has this to say about how his main man Tom DeLay is being treated:
• One of the two dozen members of Congress who showed up at the tribute for Majority Leader Tom DeLay last week was Round Rock Republican Rep. John Carter. A Chronicle reporter next to him, hoping to get a punchier explanation of why Carter wanted to attend, suggested they speak honest "Texan."

Question: "Do you think Majority Leader DeLay is getting screwed?"

Answer: "Absolutely. He's getting screwed on every level."
Yes for all that Tom DeLay has done for the Republican Party and house Republicans in particular and only a couple of dozen and no one from the leadership show up to give him thanks? If I was Tom DeLay I would be pissed.


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Friday, May 13, 2005

HB 2702, There's A Catch

Toll roads bill clears House was the headline on Wednesday. This article is updating the status of two similar bills - HB 2702 and SB 1706 - that are making their way through the legislature. The purpose of these tow bills is to help clean up the messes made by HB 3588 which was passed in the previous legislature. Whichever bill eventually passes will essentially make it harder to turn roads that were non-toll roads when they were planned into toll roads later in the process. Harder, not impossible. Oh yeah, there's a catch too:
Under both Krusee's and Staples' bills, if a road is already under construction as a free road, making it a toll road would require the conversion process in many cases. However, if the expanded road would still have as many free lanes as before, then conversion wouldn't be necessary. And if a local metropolitan planning agency designated a road under construction as a toll road before this May 1, conversion likewise would not be necessary.

Taken together, those exceptions exempt the remaining roads in the controversial Central Texas toll road plan from the litany of official votes needed to make them toll roads.

Both bills would also make conversions more difficult by requiring public votes.

Given vows by Perry and other politicians to stay away from conversions, and other legislation that would have the Transportation Department make an early decision about whether a project would have tolls, it's unlikely that the conversion statutes will be used anytime soon.

The legislation's changes in the Trans-Texas Corridor might have more ready application.






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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Chris Bell Says, "We have to stop taking certain places for granted..Round Rock and its minority population for one"

Chris Bell, the man that filed the ethics charges against Tom DeLay, and future Democratic gubernatorial candidate was involved in a conference call with bloggers tonight and the synopsis is here:
Question: Democracy for America and the Dean campaign. Microcosm of the 50 state strategy, how from a red-state how will Texas develop an all county strategy?

Chris: if you don't show up you can't compete.

Rural Texas is not happy with Perry and they are outraged with some of the redistricting issues. We need to tell them there is an alternative!

We have to stop taking certain places for granted and start being serious about other areas where we haven't always been competitive. One, for example, is Round Rock and its minority population.

About San Antonio, if we had someone in Statewide office would make things a lot easier, and San Antonio will be an upward climb. But we are going to try.

We have an event scheduled in San Antonio and some people to work with.

But this is a marathon, not a footrace. Not everything is going to happen overnight.
I recommend reading the whole thing it's a good discussion.


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Why Does Every New Highway Have To Be A Toll Road?

Is it just me or have you noticed it too? Every new highway that is being built in the Austin area, those in Williamson County in particular, are all going to be toll roads. But upon further review, as they say, it's happening all over Texas as well. Why is this happening and is it what the people of Texas want? Well this article from mySA.com, Toll agency wants to transfer project, may shed some light on the situation. I know it's San Antonio but it could be our situation some day too. They have a proposal before them to allow a Spain-based company, Cintras, and a local company, Zachry Construction Corporation to build and operate the toll roads without giving them any up front money. Want do they want you ask? The tolls for 50 years.The other reason this is important to us is because later in the article Rep. Mike Krusee's name is mentioned.
In related news, the Texas House late Wednesday approved a bill that would expand the Texas Department of Transportation's ability to construct, with a private partner, the Trans Texas Corridor. Cintra has signed a contract to build the first 600 miles of the system.

"This bill insures that TxDOT will have the necessary tools to address congestion on our highways and push the Trans Texas Corridor," said Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, the bill's author.

The bill would provide the Texas Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation additional flexibility to acquire, finance, maintain, manage, operate, own, and control rail and highway facilities in Texas and allow the agency to enter into non-low-bid contracts in connection with the Trans Texas Corridor promoted by Gov. Rick Perry.
Oh that corridor. It's everywhere, like Visa. Do Rep. Krusee and Gov. Perry want to allow Cintra and Zachry to build toll roads, among other things, all over the state and not have to pay them any money up front? Do they want to let Cintra and Zachry collect the tolls for 50 years? Do these companies think that's a better deal? I don't think corporations are in business to lose money. Let's just say that Cintra and Zachry are in the construction business and they make sure politicians know it.

Toll roads are the way around a "tax" in these politicians eyes. They're playing games with your money and they hope you won't notice. They may lower a tax of some kind but now every time you want to get somewhere you'll have to pay. 15 cents/mile to start with:
The chart above indicates that the Chicago Skyway is one of the most expensive toll roads in the country. On October 27, 2004, the City of Chicago approved a 99-year concession to a Spanish-Australian consortium who will pay $1.82 billion within 90-days. The joint venture of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA of Madrid, Spain, and Macquarie Investment Holdings of Sydney, a wholly owned subsidiary of Macquarie Bank Limited (Australia's largest investment bank) expect to realize at least a 10-percent return on their investment. To achieve their profit goals the concession agreement allows Cintra-Macquarie to double tolls over the next 10 years starting with a 20% increase January 2005.
In the long run this is a worse thing to do than just paying your taxes as we currently are and then not having to pay a toll every time we go somewhere. Not to mention all this new legislation allowing this authority to establish that rule for how they prefer to do "business". A few years back Rick Perry came up with a proposal to build roads and rail all over the state and the people of Texas never bought into it. The Governor, the Legislature and Corporations did. Who do you think will benefit the most from the TTC? The people of Texas or those other three? It will never be put up to a vote because they know it would fail. The only way to change this is to hold those responsible for this policy accountable. That means voting them out of office. What do you think?





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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Taxes and The State Budget

The legislature can't seem to come to terms with the fact that if they lower taxes in one place they will have to raise them somewhere else to make up for it. It is amazing to me that this comes as a shock to them, like our own Sen. Steve Ogden, Senate Finance Chairman, no less. Republicans have been trying to sell the American people on, so called, supply side tax cuts for decades now. If you cut taxes the money will come, so to speak. Well now that the Federal government in hemorrhaging money and the states are following suit the Republicans are having to face up to reality. They can't cut every tax there is on the face of the earth and pay for programs the majority of the people still want.

That's why they're trying to run a scam on Social Security, the most popular and successful government program ever.When they try to lower taxes on one group (the wealthy) they inevitably have to raise taxes on other groups (the poor and middle class). They just can't seem to figure out whey it keeps happening like this. The also don't understand why everyone can't see that if the wealthy pay less taxes everyone will benefit. OffTheKuff has all the latest follies on the state budget. If we Democrats can't find a way to run on these issues and win then we are in big trouble for a long time to come:
Only households with incomes of more than $140,853 a year would realize a net tax cut — an average of 1.52 percent — under the swap of higher state taxes for lower school property taxes in fiscal year 2007, when the trade-off is fully in place.

A tax bill approved earlier by the House also is weighted in favor of the wealthiest Texans, although the two plans differ significantly in details.

The Senate's tax plan, scheduled to be debated by the full Senate this week, would raise $482 million more in new or higher taxes than it would provide in property tax relief in 2007, according to the Legislative Budget Board's tax equity note.

Senate leaders, however, said the bill was designed to balance out, or be "revenue neutral," within a few more years. (You believe that don't you? - EOW)

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, the bill's sponsor, blamed much of the inequity on a 75-cents-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, which is part of the package. On average, poor people who smoke spend a larger share of their income on cigarettes than wealthier people.

"Obviously, I'd like to see it (the analysis) a little bit different. (But) get rid of the cigarette tax, and the equity note would change substantially, particularly in the areas of the lowest income," he added.

Ogden said he isn't willing to concede that the bill won't offer tax relief for many Texans. (Don't worry, I will - EOW)

But Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, a strong opponent of the bill, called the tax trade-off a "historic shift to radically regressive taxes."

"All this debate has been about tax cuts for the wealthy," he said.
Not much from either one of Williamson County Reps - Gattis, a House Conferee, and Krusee - on this subject but they both voted for the bills in the house. Mike Krusee has faith though:
"Tom will get us there," Krusee said. "He always does when he wants it."
I feel better already.


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John Carter is #6..

..in The Delay Rankings. Looks like a pretty cool site. Click on the Representative's name and you get more information.

Here is an article on the website and my favorite quotes from it:
Rep. John Carter (R) of Round Rock, who recently defended DeLay on 60 Minutes, ranks sixth in proximity to DeLay. He has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from DeLay's political actions committee ARMPAC and votes with the Majority Leader almost 99 percent of the time.

[and]

All five Republican members of the House Ethics Committee, which is slated to begin investigating DeLay, have received donations from ARMPAC. Committee member Lamar Smith of San Antonio, who has also given $10,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund, ranks No. 26 on The DeLay Rankings. He and fellow committee member Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who ranks No. 13, have both recused themselves from any investigation into DeLay's practices. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.), who was chosen to head the ethics investigation, ranks at No. 71 on the DeLay Index and has received $15,000 from ARMPAC.

[and]

"In America, you're not allowed to buy the jury," commented Donnelly. "Speaker Dennis Hastert ought to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation in Tom DeLay's scandals."


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Monday, May 09, 2005

Rep. John Carter's Fix For Social Security

Have you heard of H.R. 530? It's a bill your Congressman has cosponsored that's objective is
To amend title II of the Social Security Act and the Internal
Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for enhanced retirement security in the form of an Individual Social Security Investment Program.
A.k.a, The "Individual Social Security Investment Program Act of 2005", how "Orwellian".

Now this has nothing to do with Social Security this is complete and total privatization. Just read the Summary. It's the end of Social Security as we know it. Here is how the summary begins:
Individual Social Security Investment Program Act of 2005 - Amends title II (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) (OASDI) of the Social Security Act to add a new part B (Individual Social Security Investment Program) to change Social Security into a system of individual accounts where workers born on or after January 1, 1984, as well as electing participants born between January 1, 1951, and January 1, 1984, have ownership of and control over the investment of their retirement funds in various investment vehicles: (1) Tier I Investment Fund; (2) Tier II Investment Fund; and (3) Tier III Investment Accounts.
I bolded that line because it helps remind us of two things. Social Security is an insurance program NOT , I repeat NOT, a retirement plan. It pays off if you reach a specific age, your parents die before you're 18 or you are disabled. Yeah, that's the other part many people either forget about or don't know. Social Security pays for survivor benefits and disability benefits. What's going to happen to Rep. Cater's "
Individual Social Security Investment Program Act of 2005" scam goes through and the investments don't pan out? Who is going to invest for the children and the disabled? Social Security is guaranteed and it's guaranteed for a reason so you can count on a certain amount of money when you retire, you die early, or you become disabled. John Carter has made it perfectly clear that he believes the Social Security trust fund was just a joke perpetrated on the American people to get them to pay more taxes to fund deficits spending and that you have no right to the money you've been paying in for your entire working life. Wow, why won't the President put forth this plan?

The purported attempt by the Republicans to, ahem, "strengthen" Social Security is nothing more than an attempt to begin the dismantling of the entire program and don't forget it.


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Weekend Elections Results

Glen Fine was able to bring in 18% of the vote:
CITY OF CEDAR PARK CITY COUNCIL, PLACE 1
VOTE FOR 1
(WITH 3 OF 3 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
GLEN FINE . . . . . . . . . . 186 17.94%
LOWELL MOORE . . . . . . . . . 303 29.22%
MATT POWELL. . . . . . . . . . 548 52.84%
What this shows is that we still have a long way to go, especially in local races. In an election like this where roughly 400 votes can change the election a positive outcome should not be far off.

Here are the results from the RRISD Trustee Elections. The candidates highlighted below are the candidates from the article I posted a week ago that were running as a slate. They did pretty well but only one of them won:
ROUND ROCK ISD TRUSTEE, PLACE 1
VOTE FOR 1
(WITH 19 OF 19 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
YVETTE SANCHEZ. . . . . . . . . 2,550 28.54
KARLA SARTIN . . . . . . . . . 2,836 31.74
VIVIAN SULLIVAN . . . . . . . . 3,548 39.71

ROUND ROCK ISD TRUSTEE, PLACE 3
VOTE FOR 1
(WITH 19 OF 19 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
PHIL DENNEY. . . . . . . . . . 895 10.09
DIANE COX . . . . . . . . . . 4,034 45.46
DEBBIE BRUCE-JUHLKE . . . . . . . 3,944 44.45

ROUND ROCK ISD TRUSTEE, PLACE 6
VOTE FOR 1
(WITH 19 OF 19 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
DANIEL MCFAULL. . . . . . . . . 3,068 34.45
RAYMOND HARTFIELD. . . . . . . . 4,319 48.50
MARK MAUND . . . . . . . . . . 1,518 17.05
For the totals in all the other county races go here.





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Friday, May 06, 2005

Vote Glen Fine!

Cedar Park City Council Place 1



Saturday May 7th


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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Update about Lakefest in Granger This Saturday May 7th

Day after tomorrow, Saturday, May 7th, WCDP (and by extension TDW-WC{Texas Democratic Women - Williamson County}) is participating in the Granger Lakefest Parade and we also will have a booth in a prominent location on the town's main street (Davilla Street).

We sure could benefit from more volunteers to walk the parade route. Even if you can't stay to help us operate the booth (we have for donations t-shirts $10, two kinds of little donkey head pins $5,bumper stickers $1, 'think blue' bands for $2, and for Jim there are marvelous little ceramic donkeys that he made $15, campaign buttons $1, Texas-themed garden stepping stones of stained glass embedded in circular concrete crafted by Carol; small limestone rock paperweights which hold American and Texas flags $10, and a turn on the gumball machine for 25c....plus we'll be passing out the above referenced literature plus material on coming events, etc.) you presence in the parade will add to our presence.

As you've already been notified, there's plenty of other activity to experience and enjoy that day, but if you have to leave right after the parade, you'll still have made that significant difference!

Remember events start at 9 but assembling for the parade is 9:30 near the extreme west end of Davilla Street at the S. S. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church Recreation Hall. The parade starts at 10:30. (I'll be covering the booth during this time.)


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Pictures of The Rally..

..at Trans-Texas Corridor blog.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Corridor Quotes

"Trans-Texas Catastrophe"

"Stop Trans-Texas Corridor"

John Ricke of Bastrop, hollering, "Remember the Alamo," said he sees the corridor plan as a state "land grab."

"What would you do if you owned land?" asked Eddie Barta, a Fayette County rancher. "Would you give it to them?"

"No more Perry!" the crowd shouted, "Impeach Perry!"

"Perry and his hand-picked highway henchmen say we have a choice: no roads, slow roads or toll roads," Strayhorn said. "I say to Governor Perry and his highway henchmen: Hogwash. Vote our way today for freeways."

The crowd chanted "Clean house, clean house!" in a taunt for the Legislature.

"I'll give my life so my son gets my farm and not Governor Perry!" shouted John Ricke, 66, a retired Houston firefighter who lives on his family farm in Bastrop.

"The Trans-Texas Corridor would be devastating to our community," Socha said.

Actually an old quote from Perry, but it's still good today. "It's not a critters, birds, bees, foxes, jaguars issue," Perry told a landowners rally near Austin in 1994. "It's about land control. You've got it, and the (federal government) wants to control it."

"largest land grab in Texas history."

"There are no traffic jams in Fort Stockton," Stall said. "All this is doing is taking land in rural Texas to ease traffic congestion in the cities. Let the cities solve their own problems."

"One, two, three, four -- we don't want this corridor"

"People need to know how evil, evil has crept into our country," said Betty Meischem, 57, of Bellville, her voice rising to a high pitch as she repeated the word evil.

Moments later, she whispered that this was the first time she had attended a protest.

"I feel that strongly about the issue," she said.

"You can't tell Texans to give up their land and then pay to drive their tractor across it."

David Stall of Fayetville said, “This is a volatile issue. It's been pushed on the public without input, without discussion, without open debate."

"Private property issues, that's a huge issue for many people,” Protest organizer Hollie Ullrich said. “A lot of people are concerned about the tolling system and who would have control of that and where the money would go."

"The government is out of control. They're trying to take our property rights away from us," said Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville.

"I already wrote a note to his (Gov. Perry) e-mail and said he needs to be run out of town on a rail. But that's too good for him," said Betty Meischen of Austin County.

The state "has never acted this rashly or quickly in matters of such importance in transportation before," said Heidi Ullrich, the rally's organizer and a member of the Fayette County group Citizens Against the Trans-Texas Corridor.


"There's a lot of misinformation that's floating around out there," Nelson (Spokesman for Rep. Krusee) said, regarding the corridor. He said Krusee is receptive to rural Texans' needs, which is why they are holding the public hearings.


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Corridor Watch and Mike Krusee

Earlier this week it was reported that the folks at CorridorWatch.org were going to hold a protest rally against the impending Trans-Texas Corridor. The article stated they were trying to get the Transportation Committee, of which Mike Krusee is the chair, to take action on HB 3363:
The bill would impose a two-year moratorium on further corridor developments and on tolls on existing roads.
A simple enough request. What is the response from Rep. Krusee you ask?
However, a spokesman for committee Chairman Mike Krusee of Round Rock says the panel doesn't plan to consider the bill. Tomorrow is the committee's final meeting this session to conduct hearings on bills.
Well, I understand that this is politics and Rep. Krusee doesn't want anything to get in the way of his and Gov. Perry's pet project - building toll roads all across the state. So if you didn't read the article from KLTV in Tyler-Longview you wouldn't know this. Today I'm looking around for news about the rally and what do I find? This article, Put brakes on transportation corridor; protesters say, from the Austin American Statesman. It mentions nothing about Krusee not allowing the bill to be heard in committee. But they give us this comment from Rep. Krusee:
Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, the panel's chairman, noted that moratorium language was rejected 90-51 in House debate on the state budget.

Krusee said rally organizers failed to get foes to a morning hearing on transportation issues, adding: "Leaders want their picture in the paper. They're not interested in results."
Now you can go to the Transportation Committee's page for Past Notices, Minutes and Witness Lists like I did. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the meeting on Tuesday May 3rd. If you check out the notice - which tells you which bills will be discussed - and then check out the minutes you will notice that HB 3363 does not appear on either one. What purpose would it serve for these people to show up at a meeting where their bill won't even be heard? Of course Mr. Selby did not tell his readers that, now did he? That makes a big difference when you read Rep. Krusee's statement talking about how all these people wanted to do was get their "picture in the paper" and he wouldn't even allow this bill to be debated in his committee.

One last thing on this. The Houston Chronicle - or as my wife calls it, a real paper - has a story on this as well, Strayhorn sides with angry landowners: Rally against toll roads calls for Perry's removal. It seems interesting to me the way Republicans are starting to treat what have become their core constituencies. Mike Krusee wants to do what Republicans are never supposed to do, raise taxes. And now Krusee and Perry seem to be doing everything to make farmers mad. This is exactly the premise of Thomas Frank's book What's The Matter With Kansas?:
According to Frank, the conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans' actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class. Thus the pro-life Kansas factory worker who listens to Rush Limbaugh will repeatedly vote for the party that is less likely to protect his safety, less likely to protect his job, and less likely to benefit him economically.
Also for Rick Perry's spokesman to be saying things like this is just idiotic, not to mention bad PR:
Perry spokesman Robert Black called rally attendees "good salt-of-the-earth folks who may have, frankly, some bad information."
Nothing will make a person madder than calling them stupid and ill informed. The moral to this story is: As long as the Republicans in Willamson County and in this state are immune from accountability they can do whatever they want without the fear of being voted out of office.


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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Second Bill of Rights, Big Picture Stuff

With a need to get our focus back to where it should be I want everybody to look at something. In FDR's 1944 State of the Union Message to Congress, he laid out an economic or a Second Bill of Rights:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.
There may be one or two that need updating but how is that for a platform? Do you think Democrats would be successful running on that? It is a message that says if we are the ideal for the world to aspire to we must set an example. It is a message of hope, equality and justice.

If there is anyone reading this that lived through or has a story from a relative about how life was for the elderly before Social Security I would love to have it so I could post it here. I believe one of the main reasons Social Security privatization/phase-out is even being discussed is because of the success of the program keeping the elderly out of abject poverty. All my grandparents are now dead and they were deeply scarred by the depression. Most people left alive have no idea what that time was like. Without that experience it makes it easier for succeeding generations to think if everyone would just invest all their Social Security money in a 401(k) we could all move to the Virgin Islands and retire in style. I believe that if more people in our generation heard these stories it would provide perspective and context to the program that is currently missing.

To get up-to-date on the President's latest bamboozle on Social Security, read these two editorials:

A Gut Punch to the Middle

Time to Leave the Table

and this analysis of the President's, ahem, press conference last Thursday:

DID THE PRESIDENT MISLEAD ON SOCIAL SECURITY IN HIS APRIL 29 PRESS CONFERENCE?


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Monday, May 02, 2005

Granger Lakefest is this Saturday, May 7th

The WCDP will be participating in a parade and also have a booth at Granger Lakefest. Events commence at 9 but I think the parade starts 10:30 (with 9:30 being assembly time) and will probably last an hour at most. The entire festival goes on through dancing in the evening but we will end our tabling booth around 5 or 6. Here's the blurb in our local paper:
The 27th annual Granger Lakefest will take place Saturday, May 7, beginning at 9 a.m. Events for the day will include a kolache sale, parade, arts and crafts, a barbecue cookoff (categories for cash prizes in beef, pork, chicken, exotic, seafood, and beans), children's rides and games, an auction, a car/truck/tractor/motorcycle show, horseshoe tournament (double elimination with cash prizes), a variety of food and drinks including a beer garden, high school class reunions, live music in the park from noon to 4 p.m. by Clem Kubacak and the Polka Stars, and an evening dance by People's Choice at the Cotton Club and Steakhouse. Admission is free for the day's events , but the dance admission is $10.h
Wear comfortable shoes and britches and if you don't already have one of those Another Texas Democrat T-shirts, we'll have them on sale for $10 in a vast array of sizes, which you can don once you appear. I'll be at the booth on Granger's main street, Davilla Street, from 7 that morning...or you can meet for the parade line-up no later than 8:30 at the S. S. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church Recreation Hall at the west end of Davilla (two blocks north of FM 971 that you'll probably take to come into Granger).

URGENT:
We need a bar stool with back, one of those you might have at your own kitchen counter that's just begging to be loaned to us for the Parade Float, to secure our big ol' waving Uncle Sam. Please contact me/Jane (contact information below) at once/asap/immediately/post haste/etc. if you are the lucky person who can let us borrow it so we can make arrangements to retrieve it.


If your not busy on Saturday go out to Granger and support the WCDP.

Map and driving directions.

Help us score one for our side!
Jane Van Praag, Chair
WCDP Events Committee
jlvanpraag@sbcglobal.net
254.527.4694
P. O. Box 354
Bartlett, TX 76511-0354


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CorridorWatch & An Update On Mike Krusee's Huge Taxpayer Soaking

I don't believe most Texans, myself included, really understood what this whole Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) was going to entail two years ago when it was put through the legislature. Not to mention that it was really set in motion two years earlier by Proposition 15. But like any other "big project" like this that is rammed through a legislative body and put on a ballot with a deceptive caption, it has many flaws. All you have to do is check out the bills filed by Rep. Krusee this session (linked on the right) and notice how many of them pertain to transportation and the flawed bill of the 78th legislature, HB 3588, which created the TTC. Tomorrow Corridor Watch, a group against the TTC, will lead a rally at the Capitol in an attempt to show public displeasure with the plan so far and try to get a committee hearing for HB 3363, which hopes to put a two year moratorium on the TTC while it can be reevaluated. Although it doesn't look like it will make it out of committee:
However, the panel doesn't plan to consider the bill, said Jason Nelson, a spokesman for committee chairman Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock. Tuesday is the committee's final meeting this session to conduct hearings on bills.
It sure would be nice to call the chair of the House Transportation Committee about this and let him know you would like some action on this bill. The committee phone number is (512) 463-0818, his capitol office number is (512) 463-0670. Call them both and let him know how you feel.


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