Wednesday, June 29, 2005

13 Hours And That's All You Could Come Up With!?

Yesterday the House barely passed a bill that would supposedly revamp our states' school finance system. From the Austin American Statesman we get this, House OKs plan for school spending:
The House education plan won approval on a 77-69 vote in a body that has 25 more Republicans than Democrats. Every Central Texas Republican in the House voted for the plan, and every local Democrat opposed it. (In case you are wondering what your representatives did.)

[and]

Education groups have said inflation and new mandates will quickly eat up that money and not leave enough to help all students meet the state's growing academic demands.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said a group of school superintendents told him Monday that they'd rather see the Legislature keep the current system in place than pass Grusendorf's plan.

"I am hard-pressed to ignore the opinions of people we have chosen to preside over our local school districts," he said.
Earlier in the day the Democratic plan was killed by one vote when Speaker Tom Craddick cast the tiebreaking vote. We get this from The Dallas Morning News, House approves school plan :
At one point Tuesday, House Democrats came close to substituting their school finance alternative for the plan drafted by GOP leaders, but House Speaker Tom Craddick broke a tie vote and helped defeat the minority party's proposal on a 75-74 vote.

The Democratic plan called for more tax relief for homeowners, higher taxes on business and a much larger pay raise for teachers. About a dozen Republicans broke party ranks and voted for the Democratic proposal.

Hanging over Tuesday's debate was the current legislative impasse over what taxes should be increased to pay for a massive reduction in school property taxes. That issue is still to be taken up in the special session. The regular session ended with no agreement on school finance as House leaders pressed for higher consumer taxes while Senate leaders held out for higher business taxes to pay for property tax relief.
That's some good framing there. Look at all those things Democrats want to do, lower taxes on HOMEOWNERS, raise taxes on business and pay teachers more. Who could be against that? So what does it do and now that it passed the House what happens? The Houston Chronicle has this, School finance measure clears House:
It now goes to the Senate.

A companion tax bill to pay for the new school finance system is being debated in the House Ways and Means Committee.

House Bill 2 would cut school property taxes by 40 cents per $100 of valuation and spend $2.5 billion for teacher pay raises, new programs and technology.

It would delay the start of school until after Labor Day and replace the 11th-grade standardized test with subject exams.

The legislation also would institute state and local incentive-pay programs for teachers and allow struggling schools to be turned over to private companies. Teacher and education groups are opposed to the measure, which is substantially the same as one passed by the House during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
13 hours of debate and all they could come up with!? All they did was send pretty much the same bill they passed during the regular session back to the Senate. As far as I'm concerned one of the biggest things to take away from this is the fact that 12 Republicans voted for the Democratic plan. All of this shows that no plan that is up for debate right now has enthusiastic support. Which to me means if anything gets passed this session it will be weak and we will have to be revisit this issue once again in the near future.


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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

State News

OffTheKuff has had a couple of very good posts, doesn't he always, on the KBH decision. This one, Myth Busting deals with the myth that KBH is a moderate, don't forger to read the comments there is some KBH history in there. The next one, Your liberal media at work, shows how the Houston Chronicle in it's coverage of the KBH decision snubbed Barbara Ann Radnofsky. And she's from Houston!

Pink Dome has three great posts today:

Whoa There, Governor:
We love this photo so much we want an autographed version. State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's criticism of Perry's school finance plan and his return fire are covered in today's AAS. If this battle of the back-and-forth is any indication of what's to come, we say advantage, Strayhorn.
Seek The Truth. The Truth Will Set You Free. This one is about Kinky Friedman. He's going to keep this race fun:
Kinky Friedman took time out from his book signing to speak a little truth.

"My campaign is not the joke," he said, his trademark cigar hanging from his lips. "It's the Texas Legislature that's a joke."

Amazing how if you let that just sit there for a while it sort of resonates, doesn't it? The brutal truth of the matter is that the Emperor has no clothes. Even Perry reminded the Legislature the other day that all the other crap they are busily putting on the calendar is not the reason he called them back.
It's All Greek:
That's Greek for Finance Public Education. Since our brains are pickled from too much gin, Greek makes about as much sense to us as the school finance plans put forth by everybody.
There's more to read in all of these just click the links.

More on Perry's plan Perry school plan gathers critics:
"His plan promises $23.7 billion in tax relief over five years, but what he is really doing is writing a $5.3 billion hot check and leaving future legislatures and Texas taxpayers to pick up the bill," she said.

Strayhorn said Perry's plan is $200 million short of paying for itself in the current two-year budget cycle.

She also said there are no state tax revenues included in the proposal to pay for the continuing property tax reductions. That means, she added, the Legislature that meets in 2007 would immediately face raising taxes by $2.6 billion to pay for the next round of cuts.
I'm so glad she's running instead or KBH, she will be very quotable.

Grit's For Breakfast has all the information on a subject that has not gotten much press but needs to be paid attention to. The bills Perry vetoed after session, Perry's vetoes worse than reported.


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Report From TTC Meeting In Coupland

Jane Van Praag gives us a report on this meeting and the issues facing many in rural Eastern Williamson County:

I Have just returned with Courtney from a meeting on the TTC in Coupland.. In case any of y'all don't know about this extreme east Williamson County community, this has been one of the most extreme rigidly Republican strongholds ever to be encountered. My feeling is: 'has been' but no longer, for part of the TTC scheme is to move the Union Pacific Rail Road between its present Mopac location and Coupland, to somewhere a tad west of Coupland. The rationale is, it's better to kill off a few farm families than risk a couple blocks of city dwellers in case there's a serious hazardous material spill. Not only are officials expecting us to go along with this as our patriotic duty, the powers that be intend to use imminent domain to take away our private land in order to give it to other private entities. You see, this is where we rural types draw the line. We'll die for you, but not if we can't maintain crop production. The Blackland Prairie is some of the most fertile soil in the state/nation/world. Who's going to feed our multitudes once we're gone and the earth is paved?

We were so insulted with Precinct 4 Commissioner Frankie Limmer's lame excuses that, after I had several choice things to say, a couple of men in the back shouted, "Well, maybe we oughta make her Commissioner, then!" Of course, I let that slide..but, Brig Mireles, Courtney and I are greeting the crowds ready for you!!!! Y'all should've heard the two assistants Krusee sent in his cowardly stead: no, no, Krusee was just as powerless as Limmer, no, no, it wasn't Krusee's fault....no, no, he/they have no idea what's going on but are sure it's going to be just what we all want and besides nothing will be in effect for another 50 years, and no, no if we must blame someone, blame Perry. We couldn't get a straight answer out of any of them. Then they accused us of being hostile. To my mind, it's nothing but hostile to purposely deny accountability, to mislead, to confuse, to compound issues. One of the gents told me tomorrow he's writing Krusee to express resentment over his assistants' condescending manner. No doubt Krusee will be astonished to learn we are at ease with words of four and more syllables.
Great stuff Jane! Thanks for the report.


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Monday, June 27, 2005

Theresa Cooper, Program Coordinator, Posts On Chris Bell's Blog

Check it out here. Great job Theresa!


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Jim Stauber, candidate State House District 20 Posted by Hello


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Sunday, June 26, 2005

News 8 Covers Williamson County Social and Rally

Be Sure and watch the video linked with the story. Melissa Irion does a great job of speaking for us. Some good video of the event as well.

Democrats in Williamson County say it's time to stand proud
Democrats outnumbered but not deterred
"It's time we make a change here in Williamson County," Melissa Irion of the Williamson County Democratic Party said. "There's only one party representing us right now, and I don't believe they're doing a very good job of it."

[and]

Former Congressman Chris Bell said he may run against Gov. Rick Perry in 2006.

"He's inspired me to take a look at this race because of the way he's performed in the Governor's office,"” Bell said. "“And I think he's done a very poor job and a lot of people are looking for a change."

Bell said there's no reason to be deterred by a Republican-heavy presence in areas like Williamson County.

"We're going to have to go places that are viewed as Republican areas and try to win some of those voters back into our fold,"” Bell said. "“We are not going to win elections in Texas by just talking to the same old folks. So places like Williamson County are becoming increasingly important."

[and]

"The Democratic Party is coming back in Williamson County and we're ready to give them a rough fight," she (Irion) said.

In the 2004 presidential elections, Williamson County had the state's second largest growth in Democratic turnout.
This is the only mention I've seen so far in the local media. Be sure and let me know if you've seen any other menitons of the event in the media.


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Pictures From The Williamson County Democratic Party Social and Rally


Representing the Texas Democratic Party (from l to r): Brian Pendleton, Ken Bailey and April Larsh. Posted by Hello


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Chris Bell sounding very gubernatorial. Posted by Hello


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David Van Os, Candidate for Texas Attorney General Posted by Hello


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Mary Beth Harrell, Candidate for Congressional District 31 Posted by Hello


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Jimmy Rocha Williamson County Democratic Party Chair Posted by Hello


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Mark Strama, Representative State House District 50 Posted by Hello


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Karen Felthauser, candidate State House District 52 Posted by Hello


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Saturday, June 25, 2005

My First Impressions, Williamson County Democratic Party Social and Rally

I cannot say enough about the Events Committee, everyone who volunteered and all they did to make it a great day for our county. Believe me it was a great day for Williamson County to have all the candidates and potential candidates here today. I would also like to thank all those who spoke today, all the speeches were great and show that there are many issues where we have the advantage, moral advantage, in the upcoming election.

David Van Os was first to speak and drove home the point that the Attorney General is supposed to be the "people's lawyer" and our current AG is not.

Next was Chris Bell and he had the place rocking! He spoke with great passion and had me wanting to cast my ballot then and there. It was a great speech, The New Mainstream.

Jim Stauber came next and he's ready to take on Dan Gattis again, especially on his lack of support for public schools, health care, and his support for toll roads through rural communities.

Next we all got to meet Mary Beth Harrell for the fist time. She will be an excellent replacement for John Carter. She and her husband run their own business and have two sons. Her husband is retired military and her two sons are both in the military. One will be shipping out to Iraq later this year. She knows how important the military is to our country, that is obvious. She is also ready to fight for the environment and has NO special interest ties. She said several times she is fed up with our leadership and people like us are the ones that need to take it back. Harrel in '06!

Robert Andrews was there representing Barbara Ann Radnofsky and told us all that we needed to know about her, she is going to beat Hutchison in '06.

Ken Bailey from the state party gave us an update on all the they are doing. He also let us know they are going to run a candidate against Tom Craddick in Midland. No more unopposed Republicans!

Karen Felthauser told everyone why she is running, to make a quality public education a priority in this state and that roads should be "freeways" again and not toll roads.

Mark Strama closed out the event with an inspirational speech, telling us how he was able to beat an incumbent Republican, which we plan on doing. He also updated us on the special session so far, which doesn't seem to be headed for a resolution at this point.

I will have more to come, including pictures. It was a great day with plenty of cookies and refreshments to go around. I think all those who spoke had very positives and hopeful messages for the future of our state. These are the kind of people we need leading our state and county if we want to change the way our government operates. Once again thanks to everyone who made this possible and if you missed this one there will be many more events to come.


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Has Anyone Asked John Cater About This?

Does Karl Rove speak for you Congressman Carter? Taking The Fight To Karl, American Service Men and Women Mad At Karl Rove. If you haven't heard this is what he said:
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

[snip]

Mr. Rove also said American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
Go check out the web site, it's not just liberals that are mad. But the question remains, does Karl Rove speak for you Congressman Carter? You can contact him here.


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Friday, June 24, 2005

What's The Plan?

Two articles today about yesterday's happenings in the House Ways and Means Committee. One from the Austin American Statesman, Tax plan faces criticism and the other from the Houston Chronicle, Perry tax plan has a chance. Both of these articles are attempting to show that Gov. Perry's plan is getting looked at as an option to break the impasse. The one thing that stood out to me in both articles is that there were nothing from the Speaker or Lt. Gov. or anyone in their offices. Which to me means they haven't embraced it. They're leaving it to Rep. Keffer to say it's being looked at...But until the Speaker and Lt. Gov start saying they're looking at it, seriously, I won't believe the governor's plan is being taken seriously, no offense to Rep. Keffer.

Did you know that the Rep. Hochberg (D-Houston) has filed an alternative school finance plan, HB 15. It contains a $4,000 raise for teachers, $2,000 in each year of the biennium. There is a Democratic alternative, despite what you may be hearing.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) has an analysis of all the current plans, How to Judge What's Proposed in the Special Session:
In the current special session the Legislature could make significant changes to the state's revenue system, as well as to the school-finance system. The tax system established in a special session could determine the size of state budgets for the next ten years or more. Both tax and school finance proposals can be judged by the same criteria – equity, adequacy, and sustainability. This Policy Page will compare HB 3, the tax bill filed in the House for the special session, the version of the tax bill that the Senate passed during the regular session, the proposal by Governor Perry, and HB 15, an alternative school finance bill filed by Rep. Hochberg for the special session.
It hits the high points and helps drive home the point that no matter what is likely to pass in this special session – meaning a Democratic plan has no chance – we will likely continue to struggle as a state with financing our public schools until we fundamentally change the tax structure in this state and make education a top priority. Saying it's a top priority, which is all those who currently run this state do, is not enough, we have to actually do it and I don't believe they can.


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A Message From Karen Felthauser

I wanted to thank everybody who made it to my fundraiser on Wednesday. It was a great success. Mesa Rosa did a wonderful job decorating and with the food. We had 55 people show up! We had some fun and raised some money for the campaign. The day was topped off by the front page coverage by the Williamson County Sun of both my race and Jim Stauber’s race. We had the article on the sign in table, so everybody could read it.

I hope to see all of you Saturday morning at the Williamson County Social and Rally at the Unitarian Universalist Church

(3315 El Salido Parkway, Cedar Park 78613 ) from 9:30 to 12 Noon. Admission is free and there will be free cookies and drinks too! So the price is right!

You will get to meet and hear about all the candidates who are currently running (or thinking about running in Chris’s case)

Chris Bell (Governor), David Van Os (Texas Attorney General), Rep. for Barbara Radnofsky ( US Senate), Mary Beth Harrell (US House), Ken Bailey (political Director TDP), Mark Strama (Current Dem. State Rep. in Travis Co) Jim Stauber (St. Rep. Dist 20) and of course myself Karen Felthauser (St Rep. Dist. 52).


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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Special Session Analysis

Looking over the early landscape of this, what may be the first of many, special session it doesn't appear much has changed since the Republican impasse at the end of the regular session. The Big Three – Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Craddick – still cannot agree on a plan.

The big question is why did Gov. Perry decide call this special session without a plan? Especially going against his own word, and calling it without an already agreed upon plan? Could it be that it was just politics? It's hard to say. I mean, Kay Bailey Hutchison, his main competition, who had prodded him to call a special had already decided not to run against him. But Comptroller Strayhorn had announced that she was going to make an announcement. Did he do it to upstage her announcement? Trying to figure out the governor's motives is more than likely an act of futility. None the less, why he did it is not the main issue. When a governor calls a special session they are sticking their neck out, to a certain extent, and should the session fail the governor is left with more bad choices. Does he call another and try again or does he try and act like the last one didn't even happen? If this session ends without an agreement is he then vulnerable and if he gets an agreement is he invulnerable? All good questions, we'll just have to wait and see.

Since our governor called this $1.7 million boondoggle there's already been many things written about it (see below). One thing is clear through all of that writing. The focus for the last several years on school finance has not been on doing what is best for public schools in Texas, instead the focus has been on lowering taxes on the wealthy. The one thing our governor and the legislators can agree on is that teachers need a pay raise. The current Republican leadership has absolutely no clue how to raise the money to pay for that common goal though.

From Judge John Dietz's ruling late last year he pronounced there were two things wrong with the current public school finance system – it's underfunded and the funding relies too heavily on local property taxes. Nobody has put forth a plan that will fix those two problems. Most Republicans think there is plenty of money already going to public schools. We are back to the same place we were a few years back. How do we increase funding for public schools and not raise taxes? It can't be done. They've go to come up with a scheme, like supply-side economics or toll roads.

The Democrats have put forth some principles they would like to see included in a new school finance plan but it's unlikely the Republicans are even paying attention. That's not to fault the Democrats, it's just a fact that the Republicans don't need any Democratic support to get a plan passed. It is definitely good to have these principles so Democrats can start now presenting an alternative for next year's election.

But here is where the battle should be fought. Every single Republican plan for school finance will raise taxes on the poor and middle classes and lower them on the wealthy. The Houston Chronicle has a great analysis of this point today, Perry's plan helps rich at others' expense:
The funniest part is when they quote Byron Schlomach from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:Byron Schlomach, chief economist for the business-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation, said focusing on the savings by individuals is valid but may not catch a long-term picture.

"The change you would have to make would have to be huge to have an impact on people's (individual) finances," he said.

But he noted that the comptroller's fiscal analysis of taxes finds that even business taxes are eventually paid by individuals because they are passed through to consumers.

"People pay taxes, and only people pay taxes," he said.

Schlomach said a renter may not receive a direct rental rate cut but the property tax cut received by the owner may reduce a future rate increase.

Schlomach said property tax cuts also are important for prompting business investment that ultimately may have an impact on individuals in the form of new or retained jobs.

"If you're a welder, you may not realize you would have lost your job if this had not happened," Schlomach said. "Property tax decreases do a lot to stimulate investment."
Now, to a certain extent Mr. Schlomach has a point, businesses always pass their increased costs onto the consumer. I just think it is funny when he talks about the lowered rent renters MAY get some day. What Mr. Schlomach didn't say is that although renters MAY get their rent lowered one day they DEFINITELY WILL pay more in sales taxes.

To speculate on more time, maybe Gov. Perry just thinks he can outlast the legislature and force them to act. Or maybe they did work out a deal and haven't told us yet? Whatever the case may be the one thing you can be sure of is that whatever this Republican led legislature comes up with, it is guaranteed the poor and middle classes will get soaked and the wealthy will get a tax break.


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Video of Gov. Perry's MoFo Comment

Texas Governor Rick Perry makes a fool of himself


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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Perry's Plan…Not So Much

Gov. Perry's plan to fix school finance/property tax reform does not appear to be going over very well so far, Perry's school plan is attacked:
House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said Perry's proposed fix for the loophole-ridden business tax "doesn't work." And Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, leader of the state Senate, said the governor's idea of raising the state sales tax by 0.7 percentage point would meet stiff resistance in that chamber.
Ouch babe. I liked this part too, it's toward the end:
Perry left the door open to expanding the session to other issues, such as judicial pay raises, an overhaul of the telecommunications statutes and higher-education funding mechanisms.

But only if school finance gets done first.

"We're not going to talk about anything [else] until this is finished," Perry said
They don't appear to be listening as you can see here, The Real Special Session:
Game on.

Oh, you thought they were here to solve public school finance? WHAT'S THE COLOR OF THE SKY IN YOUR WORLD?

Sen. Troy Fraser has filed histelecom legislation, saying,

Pick up? Dude. That's why YOU'RE HERE.

Rep. Carl Isett has filed his Truth in Taxation (cough: bullsh*t) bill, saying, “I think there's motivation to try to protect taxpayers more.”

Or, as Perry would say, AMF.
They haven't even started on school finance, much less finished. They don't appear to be listening to the governor.


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Jim Stauber Campaign Press Release For House District 20

JIM STAUBER ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DISTRICT 20

Cites dismal record of Republican controlled House


Jim Stauber, a United Auto Workers Union member for over 42 years, issued the following statement following his filing for candidacy as the Democratic candidate for the Texas House, Dist. 20:

“For the last two state legislative sessions Dan Gattis and the Republican controlled house have failed to provide us taxpayers with a new school-financing program. Teachers and students are being short changed as usual. I have a plan to remedy this lack of vision, combining a fairer tax structure with focused and prioritized spending where the needs of the students are greatest. How in the world theregulation of cheerleaders overshadowed school financing in this last session is beyond comprehension.”

“During the last session our legislation has also failed to seriously address the health care crisis facing most Texans. The C.H.I.P.'s program has still not returned to the level of fairness and funding low income Texans relied on prior to the 2003 legislative session. The 6 month renewal period, rather than the previous 12 month timeframe, continues to not only burden the families in most need of assistance, but has added additional bureaucratic delays and paperwork to an already overburdened agency. This, coupled with the 90 day waiting period to review family assets, will certainly discourage participation, thus putting additional pressures on hospitals and clinics who, by law, must treat uninsured emergency room patients. This is ridiculous, and I believe we can turn it around.”

“Medicaid patients in nursing homes will still only get $45.00 a month to live on. Doctors and hospitals won't get any more money for serving Medicaid patients.”

“Dan Gattis and the Republican controlled state are shortchanging the citizens of Texas - denying our children the most basic needs in education and health care. But the list goes on and on - from unfair taxation to equally unfair government spending priorities. It's no wonder so many average citizens of Texas tell me they feel abandoned by our state government. This is why I am a candidate for the Texas State House of Representatives for District 20. Since Dan Gattis and the Republicans have failed the State of Texas so badly, it is time for a change.”



Jim's Commitment:

“I will fight for our public school system and teachers!”

“I will fight to stop the privatization of State Jobs!”

“I will fight to stop certain aspects of the Trans.Texas Corridor plan that will take away valuable farm and ranch land.”

“I will fight to restore C.H.I.P.'s to the levels and fairness Texans counted on prior to the 2003 Legislative session.”

“I will fight to relieve the tax burden of the lower and middle class citizens of Texas.”

“It is time to elect a candidate who understands the needs of the average Texas working man and woman. Who's walked in their shoes. Who will fight for YOU."

“I will be YOUR voice.”

“Let's Put Our Government Back to Work for the people of Texas.”




Help send Dan Gattis packing by supporting Jim Stauber at the “I Am a Fan of Jim Stauber Fund Raiser” Saturday afternoon July 30th at the Gazebo in San Gabriel Park, Georgetown. Come and paint your own yard sign.

________ _

Jim Stauber is retired from General Motors, and currently is President of the Durham Park Water Supply Corporation, in Liberty Hill. He is married to Carol and is the proud father of two daughters (Leigh Ann, & Lisa), and a stepson (John). Carol is active in community and church affairs, and is a part time secretary at Liberty Hill United Methodist Church.


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Thank You Charles and Greg

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to sit down with Charles Kuffner - who has a great post up right now on the governor's most recent slip up, Watch that mike, Governor , Pink Dome has the T-shirt - and Greg Wythe - who has this great analysis of what's at stake in the "special session", Lest I Forget: We're Under Special Session Alert . We discussed politics and blogging, we mostly discussed politics. It was great to meet you guys and I appreciate you making me feel welcome, like one of the community.

A couple of other things while I'm here. I found a Houston Chronicle article, Disclosure reports tell tales about lawmakers, it's part of their Delegation Watch section. It had this tidbit:
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, still has to pay off between $100,000 and $250,000 in student loans.
Did you know that? I didn't. Also yesterday I forgot to mention anything about our state Senator. Well from what this says he agrees with Speaker Craddick:
Perry will unveil a proposal today that "will define the middle ground" between the House and Senate, spokesman Robert Black said. He refused to confirm or deny details.

Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Perry would push for an increase of seven-tenths of a cent in the state sales tax, from 6.25 cents per dollar to 6.95, and extend it to car repair bills and cosmetic surgery. The House had pushed for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax; the Senate approved a half-cent boost.

Craddick said House members want to see at least a 35-cent cut in the property tax rate, which would put the maximum rate for school maintenance operations at $1.15 per $100 of assessed property value, with more cuts in future years.

"I don't think the members of the House will vote for a small bite," he said.

Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, voiced a similar concern but added that senators realize they might have to phase in property tax cuts over several years to pass a credible plan.
That makes Sen. Ogden part of the big bite coalition?


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Felthauser Kick-Off Tonight. $20.06 Donation


Kick-off Reception


Karen Felthauser
For Texas House of Representatives
District 52

Put Education First
Help elect a Williamson County Democratic Teacher
To be our voice for Public Education

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005
Mesa Rosa
15515 Hwy. 620
Round Rock, TX
6:30 – 9:00 PM

$20.06 Minimum donation per person
Includes light food and refreshments

Karenfelthauser06@austin.rr.com


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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

And.....They're Off, Or Something Like That

The reason I've called you all back here is because of our need to fix the school finance system in Texas. When we last saw the Republican lead Texas legislature they were unable to agree on, ahem, school finance "reform"/property "tax relief" and we were told this by the governor:
Perry says if lawmakers reach an agreement he will consider a special session.
He would only consider a special session if there was an agreement. In three weeks he's come a long way. Maybe with the recent developments, Hutchison not running and Strayhorn running for governor, he feels he has a little more leeway and can afford to stick his neck out. Whatever the reason he has called legislators back, at a cost of at least $1.5 million, and there is no deal. As InThePinkTexas tells us they were in for all of 45 minutes today and won't be back until Monday.

Today the Governor outlined his latest attempt to break the impasse, Details of Perry schools plan revealed. Rest assured, it's nothing new:
Gov. Rick Perry plans to call today for a school-finance plan that cuts property taxes, expands the state sales tax to computer repairs, car repairs and cosmetic surgeries and increases the cigarette tax by $1 a pack.

It also would require more companies to pay the corporate franchise tax, but it does not appear to make changes to that tax, as the House and Senate have proposed.
In other words we are still at the same place we were before the governor announced his "plan". The plan they couldn't get finalized before the end of the regular session was a plan to pay for school finance reform/property tax relief by raising taxes on the poor and middle class and lowering taxes on the wealthy. This first indication is that at least that part of the plan hasn't changed.

Not much from our Williamson County representatives on this. There was an article last week and here is what Rep. Gattis had to say:
Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, said his constituents are voicing their frustrations to him all over town, from the carwash to the grocery store to the baseball fields.

"They're as frustrated as I am," he said. Gattis said he does not think he is vulnerable to political attacks on the issue because his constituents know he has pressed for a school finance system that relies less on property taxes. (And more on what?)
I'm so happy for him. I wish I knew that my representative was "pressing" as well. From this it sure looks like all Rep. Gattis cares about is to make sure he won't pay a political price for this. Talk about not being held accountable! If he was my representative I would be more comfortable with him saying he's going to try and do everything he can to do what is right for Texas and try and pass equitable school finance reform. So far I can't find anything from Rep. Krusee about the school finance issue but to be fair there are no toll roads involved.


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Monday, June 20, 2005

Chris Bell Is Confirmed For WCDP Rally & Social This Saturday!

For more information on the Rally & Social you can see my earlier post or go to WilliamsonCountyDemocrats.org and click on June 25th flyer.


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What Does The Chairman Of The House Transportation Committee Have To Say About This?

Last month I posted about Cintra-Zachry, Why Does Every New Road Have To Be A Toll Road. Now that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been ordered by the Texas Attorney General to turn over secret provisions of their contract with Cintra-Zachry they still don't want to turn over the information. It always makes me wonder when those involved in a billion dollar public project are unwilling to let the PEOPLE see what was done in their name. Now I'm sure there are people who think that this is just too technical or confusing for the average citizen to understand and it's better left to our elected, or in the case of TxDOT appointed, officials and we should just trust them. To that I have to say, "Uh...No!" It think the best person to ask about this is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Mike Krusee. Now we know Mr. Krusee was instrumental in getting the original bill, HB 3588, authorizing the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) through the 78th legislature. He's also responsible for getting the "clean-up" bill, HB 2702, through the 79th legislature. We also know that the more the people of Texas learn about the TTC the less they like it. Therefore does anyone know where Mike Krusee stands on the release of the secret provisions information about the contract between TxDOT and Cintra-Zachry? I think we should ask him.


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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Democracy Fest Was A Big Hit

All reports I'm aware of form Democracy Fest have been that it was an overwhelming success. There are some great pictures of it here - be sure and scroll down there are many pictures - especially of our Williamson County candidates, Jim Stauber and Karen Felthauser. From what I've heard so far Williamson County had an outstanding presence at the conference. The way it looks from this Austin Chronicle article, Taking Back Texas, the Republicans seem surprised that we are even fielding candidates against Krusee and Gattis:
There are more incumbents as well, but we'll be hearing more from those races soon enough. Here's just a quick rundown of Republican House members considered vulnerable in '06: Victoria Rep. Geanie Morrison, Dallas Rep. Bill Keffer (not to be confused with the Jim Keffer of Eastland), and Lubbock Rep. Carl Isett. It's hard to believe that the "D's" have even tagged House Transportation Chair Mike Krusee of Round Rock and rising star Georgetown Rep. Dan Gattis for Democratic challenges, but there you have it
I certainly don't see what's so hard to believe about that. This is why we need to run candidates in every race. Make them spend money where they didn't think they would need to for one reason. When is the last time these guys have had to answer for their record? It's way past time.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Blacklands Coalition and Cintras Secret Toll Road Documents

Did you see the big news? Perry signs bill requiring vote on toll roads. Well, not exactly. The headline is a little misleading, so don't get too excited. You will not get to vote on all toll roads, just on whether a "free" road can be converted to a toll road. The bill being referred to is the now infamous-to-the-informed (more on that shortly), HB 2702. This bill was passed to fix a bad bill that was passed the session before. The funny part in all of this is the fact that the only people who seem to be happy about this are Mike Krusee, Governor Perry, other politicians, and, of course, those who are going to be involved in building this monstrosity.

Since the last legislative session ended, there have been some interesting developments surrounding the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), two of which I will highlight here: the creation of the Blacklands Coalition and a ruling by the state's Attorney General on releasing documents pertaining to the TTC.

The main problem is that most Texans aren't informed about the TTC. When a person becomes informed about the TTC--or the more a person is informed about the TTC--the less enthusiastic they are about it. That's where the Blacklands Coalition comes in. Their stated purpose is to “educate, organize and involve landowners and interested Texans about the true impact of the proposed TTC-35 corridor”, or as they like to say:
We believe most Texans do not understand what significant changes have been made to our highway programs by our elected officials. HB 3588, passed several years ago, gave sweeping powers to the Trans Texas Corridor Commission, most of which exceed the wishes of informed Texans.

We believe most Texas do not understand the real impact of the TTC-35 corridor, and when informed would not support such a project. It will not only have a negative effect on Texans in the path of the project, but all Texans, and even other states.

Hmm…didn't I refer to a Thomas Jefferson quote yesterday about education and freedom? I think it went something like this, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Interesting. Our government passes a sweeping and expensive law, and an uninformed/uneducated public has no idea what is happening. As was said earlier, if only Texans knew what was going on, they would be against it.

Staying in the same area of knowledge (or lack of it) and the TTC: On May 31st, the Texas Attorney General's office ruled that TxDOT must release hundreds of pages of the Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) kept secret in their deal with Cintra-Zachry, a Spanish contractor, to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor TTC-35. But TxDot and Cintra are contesting the ruling. Why are the people of Texas being denied access to information about a multi-billion dollar deal that its government struck to create a 600-mile toll road? Why the secrecy? The first thing you need to remember is who our current leadership in Texas are descended from. That's right, the Bush administration. They do the same thing, except that, as far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with national security. It's more along the lines of Vice President Cheney trying to keep secret who met with him about energy policy, and that secrecy case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. I would assume if they don't want it released to the public, then it might be something that would not put them in a very good light. Boy, is that overstating the obvious!

Being informed is a continual process which has been made harder over the last couple of decades with the deterioration of the press and media in this country. Are you for spending billions of dollars to allow a foreign company to build a 600-mile toll road through your state, while keeping information secret which the Attorney General says you have a right to see? I would love to hear the answer.








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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Do You Believe In Public Education?

Last week in my post Fundamental Change, I pointed out some fundamental changes that we need to make, specifically in our local and state governments. Topping the list, we must have new leadership, along with a change to a more progressive tax structure, which would be a more just and fair way to fund public education in Texas. But before I return to those issues, there are two points that need to be made, and these two points will show the disconnect between Texans and our current leadership. First, Texans believe in public education. They also believe its funding should be a top priority. Does our current Republican leadership feel the same?

I don't believe there is a question anymore of whether or not we should have a public education system. Surely, an overwhelming majority will agree that it is worth the effort to educate our citizenry. It is an investment in our state's economic and social well being that will pay off for many years to come.

Since most people agree on that, why is it that the actions of our current Republican leadership in Texas would lead one to believe otherwise? If they believed in public education and funding it adequately, they would do it. Period. Instead, they are scheming and trying to find a way to do it without inconveniencing anybody who pays for their campaigns.

Is there a religious and/or corporate element to this, i.e. vouchers and charter schools? Well, the legislature's decision to waste valuable time on a school voucher proposal might make you think so. And when it turns out the only reason the proposal was tried is because it's a pet issue of one of the state's main Republican benefactors, it just might prove that point.

Apparently, they don't mind raising taxes on the poor, but they don't ever want to raise taxes on the wealthy--don't bite the hand that feeds you, right? To illustrate this, check out this latest tax trick the legislature pulled during the recently-concluded legislative session. This one was particularly heinous:
But this legislative session did duplicate one of the underhanded gimmicks used to balance the budget two years ago. It did so at the expense of the most needy Texans.

The trick came in the confiscation of money set aside by law for helping the needy with their electric bills. It's called the system benefit fund.
Leading the charge was none other than Williamson County's Senator Steve Ogden:
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the money could be better spent on other social services. But [Rep.] Turner said that by taking the money from electric bills and redirecting it to the general budget, lawmakers have effectively created a new tax.
There goes another Republican filling a budget gap at the expense of the poor. Why can't these guys, just once ask those with more to pay more? If they only took advantage of the less fortunate once in a while--or even most of the time--it wouldn't be so bad, but they do it every single time!

Where we spend our money shows what our priorities are, whether it's in our personal lives or as a society. When we shortchange those things that we determine to be essential, we suffer--as individuals, families, and communities. If we continue to shortchange education in Texas, it's obvious that the problem will not get better. It's not just money. We--parents, grandparents and residents of this state--have to make this a priority. How? Well, when a politician shortchanges education, or any other important issue for that matter, make sure you let them know about it and definitely don't vote for them anymore. Inform your friends, family, coworkers or that person in the checkout line about the issues. I know one person who tries to inform phone solicitors about political activism when they call her. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Our current leadership reveals their priorities by the way they handle the state's money, making it hard to tell whether, first of all, they believe in public education. Secondly, they make it hard to believe that they intend to fund it adequately. Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe in public education? Do those who are currently running this state believe in those things?


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Monday, June 13, 2005

The Iconoclast Blasts Krusee, Craddick and Perry On Toll Roads

COMMENTARY — Toll Roads: A Brief Review
There is so much going on right now with toll legislation, proposals, back-door legislation and “behind the scenes” activities and power-plays.
Gov. Perry WANTS toll roads, in particular his dream of a Texas Toll Corridor originating from Oklahoma to Mexico, but then beyond to include Canada in the north to Central America down south. The governor is being “romanced” by special interests to proceed “full guns” on ensuring toll roadways throughout Texas. Toll road plans reinforce for the GOP the issue of “NO new taxes”; however, what are tolls if not taxes?
In order to fulfill this mission, Perry has “Yes-man” Speaker Tom Craddick heading the house who is also “gung-ho” toll roads and anything else Perry wants. Craddick ensured house compliance and pro-toll direction by selecting Mike Krusee as the Chair of the Transportation Committee. Krusee has been the most influential member and prime-mover of the house in promoting toll roads to the legislature and big business. Krusee also sits on the board of CAMPO and persuaded the house and senate to approve and implement the bill for the Regional Mobility Authorities (RMA) — several —, which determine future roadway plans in various counties. Currently Krusee is trying to ensure a stable long-term pro-toll RMA by getting his bill passed that will give RMA members a longer term of six years. Under the guise of maintaining “experienced” members, it will ensure a stable pro-toll membership and state agenda for at least the next six years.

[and]

Basically, toll roads are more than a 90-percent certainty unless the public vocalizes its anger and disagreement with the state’s special interest drive for toll roads. While there are other alternatives to tollways, few have been or are being reviewed. One of the reasons that tollways are being pushed so vehemently is that TxDOT has “frightened” counties and legislators with the prospect of losing millions of state and federal dollars if toll roads were not voted for before a miniscule period of time. Consequently, this premeditated “persuasion” was very effective and instrumental in getting boards, committees and legislators to become proactive for tollways, and why the vote by CAMPO succeeded within such a short span of time.
Because of this “persuasive” tactic, I and others have complained formally to the Travis County DA, Ronnie Earle, to investigate the actions and motives of those pushing for toll roads. Those I named in the formal complaint range from the governor and house speaker to Krusee and TxDOT. The investigation is being performed as I write this synopsis, and hopefully, it will uncover some illegal activities and conflicts of interest prevalent in this massive push for tollways.
There is much more going on at this time, but that’s a VERY brief summary of the toll road status within the state. Definitely there is a toll road “conspiracy” afoot. If we all sit back and watch, our children’s children will be paying toll taxes forever. We need to communicate more vigorously to elected officials, demanding alternatives to toll roads throughout the state. Austin is the Texas toll frontier. If it happens here, it happens everywhere.


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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Willamson County Democratic Party Social and Rally, June 25, 2005


It's time for all Democrats to show up on June 25th. A day to get together and socialize with other Democrats. Meet and listen to great speakers and Democratic candidates for office. It's also a time to show your support and join in the effort to take our county back. Mark your calendars and be there!  Posted by Hello


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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Karen Felthauser for Texas House of Representatives District 52 Kick Off, June 22nd


Kick-off Reception


Karen Felthauser
For Texas House of Representatives
District 52

Put Education First
Help elect a Williamson County Democratic Teacher
To be our voice for Public Education

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005
Mesa Rosa
15515 Hwy. 620
Round Rock, TX
6:30 – 9:00 PM

$20.06 Minimum donation per person
Includes light food and refreshments

Karenfelthauser06@austin.rr.com


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Howard Dean Is Doing A Great Job!

For the last couple of weeks or so there has been a renewed effort on the part of the conservatives to try and paint DNC chairman Howard Dean as the wrong choice and bad for Democrats because of what he has said recently. To me that's a definite sign that Howard is doing a great job. Keep in mind that he's not saying all these things because, as some might have you believe, he's a loose cannon shooting off his mouth. A few weeks ago I was pointed to an article from the California Political Review (CPR) on how the San Diego Republican Party reformed itself, Like Clockwork.One of the "8 Building Blocks" in the article is the fact that the party is best suited trying to build the party and that candidates are best suited to reach out to swing, independent, undecided voters - whatever you prefer to call them.
The Republican Party of San Diego County defined the role of the party as being: maximize the size of its membership, tell its members which candidates the Republican Party supports, and maximize the number of members casting votes on election day. We would fulfill this role by enlisting the volunteers and raising the money necessary to carry out specific programs in these areas.

Put another way, the party would take responsibility for Republican voters, allowing candidates to focus their limited resources on those non-Republican voters necessary to achieve victory on Election Day. This represented a critical evolution in how the Republican Party approached campaigns in San Diego County. It recognizes that the party is the institution best suited to communicate with its own members, because those voters have made the conscious decision to identify with the Republican Party and are most likely to consider the party credible.

It also recognizes that the Republican Party is not the institution best suited to advocate to non- Republican voters. Think about it: a non-Republican registered voter has made a conscious decision against identifying with the GOP. But that same voter probably has not made the decision to reject a specific candidate, Republican or otherwise. Hence, the non- Republican voter will more likely be receptive to an appeal coming directly from a Republican candidate than to one from the Party itself.
Howard Dean is reforming the Democratic Party and in more ways than one. His job is to grow the party and raise money. Raise money from Democrats, not middle of the road wishy-washy independent, undecideds! That is exactly what he is doing. As you will see from this DailyKos diary or this one:
He knocks the Republicans off message by forcing them to react to his attacks. Better yet, these "attacks" are just slightly hyperbolized truths. Are the Republicans going to deny they're white and Christian. Let's get Denny Hastert on camera and have him deny he's white.

[and]

Dean gives red meat to the base. YEEEAARRRRRGH! (well, I like it). It's nice to see a leader with a spine. And it's nice for the public at large to see straight talker. If your base loses interest in your party because they've been taken for granted for so long you will start losing votes to apathy and fringe parties. Dean is calling progressives home with these seemingly inflammatory remarks.

[and]

Dean's remarks get Dems in the press without the words filibuster, opposed, obstructionist, or any other Corporate Media favorites.
Not to mention he's raising money from people and not corporations. Wow, a strong leader that is saying what needs to be said and raising money from the people. Maybe the Democratic Party can get back to being the party of the people again.


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Fundamental Change

One thing that most Texans understand as this legislative session goes down in history, excluding Rep. Mike Krusee of course, is that it was not a success. Those running our state government were unable to fix their own self-described number one goal: school finance reform and property tax reform. With Republicans controlling everything in this state and agreeing that this is our number-one problem, why were they unable to resolve the problem? It's because our state needs fundamental change and our current leaders can't bring it about.

It's because most Texans have a tendency to forget that Texas has the “5th most regressive state and local tax system of the 50 states” – regressive meaning the less you earn the higher your tax rate. For example, if you make $20,000/year, a 6.75% sales tax will take a bigger percentage of your income than someone who makes $50,000/year; a sales tax, therefore, is a regressive tax. If Texans were aware that the tax burden in this state falls overwhelmingly on the poor and middle class, I believe we would be in a completely different situation than we are today. Texans would understand that in order to have the kind of school system that we need, those who have more need to take on more responsibility.

Another reason there wasn't a deal is because the Republicans can 't “tweak” or “skew” the current regressive tax structure anymore toward the “have-nots” and away from the “haves” and get away with it. The Republicans have not faced up to this fact publicly yet. Like I've said before, the only way out of this is to tax people who have money and that would be a fundamental change to the tax structure of this state.

Another fundamental concern is tax fairness. Should taxes be fair? You will hear conservatives talk about tax fairness all the time. But they sure don't seem to mind when taxes are unfairly skewed toward the poor and middle classes.

Along the lines of fairness is a another fundamental concept: Do you believe that those with more should pay more taxes than those with less? I say yes. This is not just some Democrat wanting to soak the rich. This is rooted in Christian scripture, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48). I am not one who often quotes the Bible, but in this instance it seems a fitting way to illuminate hypocrisy, especially with what the Governor has been up to lately. When you have a bunch of people on the right who are supposedly steeped in Christian moral values, yet who do everything they can to avoid paying taxes, thereby forcing those with less than they have to pay more, it's just wrong--and wrong in light of the Scripture which they so willingly quote. Fair taxation should be a fundamental change in the state of Texas.

One more fundamental concept which everyone agrees on is that a well-educated population is not only a good a moral thing to have on hand, but it is a good investment. With Texas being ranked 50th in high school graduation rate and 48th in SAT scores, it shows we are not investing wisely. Now, picture yourself as a business owner, thinking of relocating. I'm sure one criteria you would have is to find a state that could provide an educated workforce for your business. I can't see how anyone would look at those numbers above and put Texas very high on their list. Eventually, to fix this problem a more progressive, fair tax structure, where more is asked of those who have more, will need to be implemented to bring about a better education system in Texas. It is a wise investment for our state and will pay off in the long run. Despite what Rep. Kent Grusendorf says, a well-funded and well-run education system in Texas would be a fundamental change.

There are two Policy Pages from the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) that lay this argument out very well. The first one, Who Pays Texas Taxes?, explains how regressive the tax structure in Texas already is. It goes on to show that a tax shift--the lowering of a less regressive tax (property tax) for the raising of a more regressive tax (sales tax)--which was the legislature's plan, will only put the burden more on the poor and middle classes. The other Policy Page deals with what the effects of the Senate version of HB 3 would have been. It concludes that "80% of Texas families would see an increase in total taxes as a result of CSHB 3", and only those who make over $177,773/year would see any lowering of their taxes. That was the proposed fix for the property tax burden on Texans? Does that seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Don't be fooled: that is a fundamental problem with the current leadership of this state.

The last fundamental question on this topic for today is: what are the alternatives? Yes, believe it or not, there are alternatives. I will write about those soon. But as I looked over this information and began understanding why a one-party, Republican-dominated state government couldn't fix a problem that they all agreed was a problem, it lead me to one unmistakable conclusion again and again. The only way to truly fix this problem is to change who is running our state government. That, I am convinced, would be the best fundamental change for our state.



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Monday, June 06, 2005

4th Annual Jarrell Family Fiesta, June 11, 2005

Boy howdy, these days we no more get through establishing our strong Democrat presence at one event before here comes another opportunity! Jim & Carol Stauber alerted us to this event to be held this coming Saturday between 10 and 3. Our very own Courtney immediately contacted the arrangers so we're set for another parade AND tabling adventure.

These are the details: The Family Fiesta kicks off with a parade through downtown Jarrell beginning at 10 AM and will end at the Jarrell Memorial Park located at 1651 CR 305 (that's County Road for all you sophisticated urbanites). Our booth will be at the park (near the baseball field). Other activities will include arts/crafts, a rock wall, rain ride, eating contests, children's cookie baking contest, food booths, and more. There's a website you can search for more specifics: here.

We set up the booth between 8-8:30 AM and those who will march in the parade will need to meet at 9:00 AM at the Methodist Church on downtown Avenue H for the parade line-up.

Again, please, a great big show of hands of who can come for the parade and who can stay to help with the booth (you don't want me to come after you, do you?)!


Thank you,
Jane Van Praag, Chair,
WCDP Events Committee
jlvanpraag@sbcglobal.net


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The Legislature Is a Joke

Those that brought suit against the state for the current school finance plan could not be happier with the outcome of the 79th legislature:
It's the type of "Exhibit A" evidence that lawyers could only have dreamed about: Texas lawmakers leaving the Capitol last week unable to fix the state's school funding crisis.

[and]

"If we had scripted it out so that it would put us in the light most favorable to the Supreme Court and to the general public, we would not have had a better position," said Dallas attorney George Bramblett Jr., one of the lawyers representing property-wealthy districts in the case headed to the Supreme Court on July 6.
"This failure justifies our clients' concerns that the state would not act," he said.

But House Education Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, remains confident the Supreme Court will not tell lawmakers they must spend more money for public education.

"The taxpayers are paying a lot of money in the state of Texas for quality education," he said.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott would not speculate on how the Legislature's inability to approve a new school funding plan might affect the state's defense. Students, parents, school districts and taxpayers all deserve a clear and swift resolution of the school finance litigation," Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland said.
Makes me wonder what lies ahead. It's hilarious because the lawyer for the wealthy districts is as happy as can be, Grusendorf thinks we have “quality” education in Texas, and the AG spokesman is talking about a “clear and swift reso--...reso--..., hahahahaha! Sorry, I thought I could get through this without laughing. A “clear and swift” resolution to the school finance litigation. See what I mean by a joke?

The Republicans hadn't controlled the Texas legislature since reconstruction, and now we know why.


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Krusee: “The session went from being disastrous to being just fantastic"

Yes, he's talking about the 79th legislative session, but no, his comment doesn't have anything to do with school finance reform or property tax reform. The reason he said that is because at the 11th hour of the session, HB 2702 was passed into law. It has to do with making the bad bill from the last session, the bill which created the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), marginally better. The above quote and others (such as: “TxDOT is as happy as can be,” Krusee said--and we know that this session was all about making TxDoT happy!) come from this article from last Friday: Toll-Speed Ahead. The article goes a long way around to say that, basically, any new highway built in Texas will be a toll road, and that no one of any consequence in the legislature has a problem with that because the only way around ridding us of this regressive tax (toll roads) is to institute another regressive tax (raising the gas tax). And so you see, either way, the poor and the middle class pay.

The other nifty part of this article is this:
The Legislature addressed the highly emotional issue of taking free roads and making them toll roads. These so-called "conversions" would require a public vote, and the Transportation Department will no longer be able to take a road under construction as a free road (such as U.S. 183 in Northwest Austin) and at the last moment dub it a toll road. But the exceptions associated with the new law — if a project adds expressway lanes with tolls but also has a number of free frontage lanes equal to what existed before, it will not be a conversion--mean that none of the controversial proposed toll roads in Austin will come up for a public vote.
If I'm reading this correctly, it means that if they build a toll road over an existing road, and build as many free lanes as are currently available on the existing road and make these new free lanes the access road, then they can toll any road. Not to mention that all of those roads that caused the "burst of flames" in Austin last year are still going to burn, or will be 'converted', shall we say. Then we have this interesting item that “now” the governor says he opposes conversions--now that everyone has found out about them and doesn't like them! Isn't that convenient? So you see, how good the legislative session went just depends on your point of view and what you wanted accomplished. Congrats, TxDot.



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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Round Rock City Council Place 1 Runoff Election

Vote for Rufus Honeycutt in the Runoff June 11th, early voting until June 7th. District 52 candidate Karen Felthauser says:
I would like to encourage those of you who live in Round Rock to vote for Rufus Honeycutt. To those of you who don’t, I would like to encourage you to speak to friends who do and have them vote for Rufus. He is in a run off with Ted Williamson. The third candidate, Sharon Izzo, who was initially in the race, has also thrown her support behind Rufus.
Click on Continue Reading to learn more about Mr. Honeycutt.

Rufus Honeycutt
Successful businessman and Proven community leader
2001 Round Rock Citizen of the Year
Endorsed by Round Rock Police Officer’s Association


I am Rufus Honeycutt. My wife, Margaret and I have been married 40 years. We are members of Saint Williams Parish. I served 6 years in the Marine Corps. I had a successful 30 year business career with the IBM Corporation managing the development of computer products. My 30-year career with IBM required skills in project management, scheduling, budgeting, negotiations, problem solving, and team building. My success in business allowed me to retire as a Senior Engineer at age 54. I was then able to devote more time to my favorite hobby, serving in my community.

My involvement with business and government include:
Co-chairman City of Round Rock Economic Development Commission
Vice Chairman City of Round Rock Fire Department Civil Service Commission
Member of the Round Rock City Charter Review Commission
Graduate of the Round Rock Citizens Police Academy
Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee
Williamson County Grand Jury
Williamson County Special Commissioner for condemnations
Williamson County Veterans Service Officer selection committee

My service to community organizations includes:
Round Rock Sertoma Club President, Sertoman of the Year and Distinguished Governor
Williamson County Crisis Center Board President and Volunteer of the Year
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Commander and Texas All-State Post Commander
Serteen Club Advisor at C. D. Fulkes Middle School
Bent Tree Home Owners Association Secretary/Treasurer
Texas Mission of Mercy Coordinator
Frontier Days Executive Director
American Legion Boys State selection committee
United Way of Greater Williamson County volunteer
Blue Santa volunteer

For 13 years I have been requested by my neighbors, service clubs, non-profit agencies, the Chamber of Commerce, City Managers and City officials, County judges, and County Commissioners to take on leadership roles in the Round Rock/Williamson County communities. I have always answered the call. I was honored to be recognized for my successes in this work by being Round Rock’s Citizen of the Year in 2001. I am endorsed by the Round rock Police Officer’s Association for this election.

I am a proven community leader. I wish to continue serving as your City Councilman. I ask that you consider my record and decide if I am the person you want to elect. I have a strong reputation for getting the job done. I welcome challenges so that I might use my skills built over my 30 year career and 6 year Marine Corps service to solve problems and achieve goals.

I have put my time and my money to work for the betterment of Round Rock. I stand proudly behind my record of service to my fellow citizens of Round Rock and to my Country. I would appreciate your allowing me to continue to serve by electing me to City Council Place 1.

Sincerely,
Rufus Honeycutt


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Congressman Carter, BRAC and Empire

When it comes to base closings, my only question about what is being done is to make sure that it’s in the best interest of the American people. Any logical person, I'm sure, would agree that every so often our military strategy needs to be looked over, changed, or refined. The problem comes when we have to decide whose vision of change we are going to follow.

Last month the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. As you may or may not know, your congressman is not happy about what may happen to Fort Hood as a result of the recommendations. There are many, many items at play when it comes to what our President and the Secretary of Defense's vision is for our military. I do not want to go into all of those here, but suffice it to say that they have more of a global perspective than Congressman Carter, and for that matter Congressman Edwards, does. What I mean by this is that one of the main reasons this BRAC is occurring is because we are building new bases all over Iraq and central Asia. These bases will need to be staffed. Some personnel will come, probably, by moving some troops from Europe and Korea. Another reason the BRAC is occurring is because the US military is having serious trouble recruiting.

I know, what does this have to do with Williamson County? Well, this is one of those ‘big picture’ things again. I'm sure there are some economic benefits here in Williamson County from Fort Hood, but not near as much as our neighbors to the north in Bell, Coryell and McLennan counties receive by having the military and their families living and working and going to school in those areas. The base closing game as far as Congress is concerned always comes down to NIMBY (Not In My BackYard), meaning, this time, don't make cuts in "my backyard". Our congressman has a problem with what they are trying to do in his backyard, but not much of a problem with all of the other closings--I assume--since I can't find any statements by him on the others, which to me means he endorses the administration’s plans for the transformation of the US military which is occurring.

Will congressmen Carter and Edwards, along with their two Senate cohorts (Hutchison and Cornyn), be able to get the DoD to change its mind about Fort Hood? Your guess is as good as mine. But as long as we keep electing representatives that agree with the current administration and its plans for our country, it doesn't matter very much what they do. Have any of these people ever gone against this administration on national security or military matters? They will do what they are told to do by this administration. Like Texas is going to vote for a Democrat for president any time soon--or for US Senate, or Williamson County for congressman--that's what this administration is banking on. Congressman Carter may be against the President on this, but I've never heard him speak out against the overall plan and why this is occurring. He's just playing the NIMBY game and doesn't want this to cost him in an election. If President Bush cancels the cuts at Fort Hood, I would venture to guess you'll never hear another negative word about BRAC from Mr. Carter.

No one does a better job of keeping up with the subject of the American Empire than Tom Engelhardt. His latest item on this topic, Bases, Bases Everywhere, reminds us of that. Our military, if their plan is completed, will be a global empire of bases whose purpose is to protect American “interests” around the world.

Our current course in the United States is such that we think the only way to make sure we are safe and not attacked, is to keep an eye on everyone in the world, no matter the cost. The main cost is the huge decreased spending on anything domestic in order for this global conquest to continue. We can debate about a strong national defense and exactly what that should be and how it should come about, but that is not what is happening now. We need to understand that this is a trade off. We can be a global empire, but it will cost, and cost dearly. Is it worth horrible health care coverage for the less fortunate, the death of Social Security, a horrible education system? We need a change of leadership in this country and here in Williamson County is as good a place as any to start. What do you think?


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Legislative, er.., I Mean Judicial Raises

OffTheKuff posted a story on the end-of-session fight over a judicial pay raise. There is one wrinkle he didn't mention in his post which is the focus of the article, Legislators up their pensions, cut teachers' :
The lawmakers' pensions are set to increase because of their vote to raise the pay of state judges. Years ago, legislators tied their own pension benefits to the salary of state district judges, which would increase to $125,000 under the legislation -- up from the current $102,700. A 12-year legislative veteran would see a yearly pension increase of $6,000.
That definitely sheds a different light on it. There are some good quotes in this article from a couple of retired teachers, but my favorite is this one:
"I'm voting against anybody, Republican or Democrat, that comes up for re-election ... including [Gov. Rick] Perry when he comes up," (Franklin) Nix, (72), said. "And I'm a redneck, right-wing Republican."
That is just quality stuff there. I'm not going to speculate on anyone's motives; this is just one other dimension to the story. When it was voted on in the House, SB 368 (.pdf document--see bottom of page 7) was not a record vote, but several registered their vote with the Chief Clerk as being a no, among them Rep. Krusee, meaning Rep. Gattis voted for it. A few made statements on their vote wishing a judge's pay increase was not tied to an increase in legislative pensions.

The Senate votes were unanimous or close to it, with Sen. Wentworth voting against it once during a procedural vote. I could definitely see how this would not make Rep. Keel very popular with his fellow legislators though.


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