Sunday, July 31, 2005

Krusee Is Frustrated? Felthauser Is Flabbergasted!

Krusee frustrated by failure:
Williamson County's state representative said Wednesday he's as frustrated as his constituents over the Legislature's failure to pass meaningful school finance and property tax reform.

Rep. Mike Krusee of Round Rock said there are so many different forces pushing the process in different directions, it has been impossible to come up with a consensus.

[and]

Krusee said legislators are caught between the need to provide more funding for schools and the need for property tax reform to reduce the school taxes paid by homeowners.
Click on the link for this article to read his excuse for voting "present" on HB 3. Sounds like someone wants to have it both ways.

KRUSEE MORE FRUSTRATING THAN FRUSTRATED

I was flabbergasted by the Taylor Daily Press’s report that Mike Krusee, southern Williamson County's state representative, claims to be as frustrated as his constituents over the legislature’s failure to pass meaningful school finance and his further claim that legislators are caught between the need to provide more funding for schools and the need for property tax reform to reduce the school taxes paid by homeowners. He seems to be overlooking his responsibility for this lack of results. He is a big part of the problem. His claims lack credibility considering his nay vote, with a minority of Texas’s House members, against the Hochberg amendment. This vote proves he does not care about either goal. This amendment would have provided money for schools and a fairer tax break on property taxes, but Krusee voted against it.

The Texas Freedom Network has given Krusee a ranking of academically unacceptable with a 0% rating on their records of votes which would show support of public schools. He has voted to privatize our schools, remove quality standards from our exemplary schools and use our public school money to support vouchers.

I think it’s time for a state representative who really will support public education in Texas.

Karen Felthauser
Candidate for Dist. 52 State Representative


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The Latest On "Run Everywhere"

This post from SaveTexasReps, They’s Smart in Montana, links to an article from In These Times, The Progressive Frontier, about the Democratic Governor of Montana. The article starts with how the Democratic Party in Montana stared building:
A decade ago, the Montana Democratic Party began a period of rebuilding. The Republican Party held the governor’s office and controlled both chambers of the legislature by overwhelming majorities. The Democrats committed themselves to the basics. They engaged in a strategic planning process that defined clear, attainable goals. They focused on recruiting candidates who would work hard and win. And they trained candidates and volunteers in the organizing model of grassroots advocacy groups. Democrats soon started making gains in legislative races.
It ends with this:
But other lessons are more concrete and there are some signs that Democrats are beginning to implement them nationally:

  • Fight everywhere. Schweitzer didn’t write off the rural areas of Montana that have recently become Republican strongholds. He campaigned statewide, winning two counties typically lost by Democrats and narrowing the margin in dozens of others.
  • Fight back. When Schweitzer got “Swift Boated,” his campaign staffers didn’t sit silently. They hit back fast and hard. And in his first months in office, Schweitzer didn’t refrain from criticizing the president who received more votes than he did. He aggressively criticized Bush on a number of fronts. Now he’s more popular than the president among Montana voters.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Unlike other Democrats who revel in meta-analysis or theorizing over values, Schweitzer simply did it. Rather than saying he was a real Montanan, he talked about his homesteading ancestors. Rather than talking about reclaiming the flag, Schweitzer just did it—prominently on his Web site and on pens the campaign distributed. And both Schweitzer and the Montana Democrats had plans. They just realized that having the plans was more important than talking about them non-stop.

If Democrats across the country learn these lessons, they’ll be on the right road to winning America back.
Sounds good to me.


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Congressman Carter And The Patriot Act

Have you read Congressman Carter's justification for why he believes in securing your freedom by continuing to take away your civil rights? Here he explains his vote to extend the Partiot Act for 10 years, Securing the freedom of our nation. He is also very proud of the amendment he was able to add by voice vote, meaning there was no record of who voted for or against his amendment:
HR 3199 will better facilitate our law enforcement officers fighting the War on Terror here at home to investigate, find and prosecute those who want to inflict harm on our citizens.

As many of you know, early this spring I introduced the Terrorist Penalties Enhance-ment Act. Current law denies a jury the ability to consider a sentence of death or life imprisonment for terrorists in many cases - even when the attack results in death. It is time that equal justice is given to those who commit crimes against our nation.

This new piece of legislation amends the federal criminal code to apply the death penalty or life imprisonment for a terrorist offense that results in death, terrorist offenses which create grave risk of death, and certain terror-related crimes involving nuclear and weapons of mass destruction threats to the United States.

Such offenders would also be permanently ineligible for federal benefits of any kind and allows for the application of the federal death penalty in certain, limited air piracy cases occurring before the enactment of the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994.

The act was approved by voice vote as an amendment to the USA PATRIOT Act.
Did many of you know that? By threatening to kill people who commit terrorists acts, which if you go by the the governments story of what happened on 9/11, the terrorists have already decided to kill themselves for a cause, this doesn't really seem like much of a deterrant? Another question I have is, if the Patriot Act is such an essential tool why don't they want to make it permanent instead of just extending it for 10 more years?


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PLEASE JOIN US FOR GRASSROOTS TRAINING, AUGUST 13!

The Williamson County Democratic Party is proud to present a Grassroots Training Workshop open to any and all Democrats who are interested in helping make a difference that really hits home!

Dr. Dennis Teal, Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party Grassroots Committee, will conduct the workshop, giving instruction on:

  • Effective Get Out The Vote (GOTV) techniques
  • Media and the Democratic Message
  • The Democratic Party Platform (Its relevance to each voter)
  • Texas Democratic Party Structure (the role of each person in the Party)

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Saturday, August 13, 2005, 10:30 am to 3:00 pm for time well spent with other Democrats at the Walburg Community Center, 4000 FM 972, in Walburg.

For directions and more information click "Continue Reading".
DIRECTIONS:

--From I-35, take the Walburg Exit 268 heading east. After the intersection with FM 1105, the Community Center will be on your right, just past Dale’s Essenhaus.

--From TX Hwy 95, at Bartlett take FM 972 west, or at Granger take FM 971 west. Turn north onto FM 1105 and continue until the “T” intersection in Walburg.

WCDP will offer lunch (including a drink and dessert) for a $10 donation, or you may choose to arrange lunch on your own.


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Pictures From Jim Stauber's Kick-Off Yesterday

Looks like a good time was had by all.

Jim With His Supporters

Looks Ready To Take On The Texas House

With Williamson County Democratic Party Chair Jimmy Rocha


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Friday, July 29, 2005

Do You Live In State House District 20?

If you do and you want someone in the state house that will fight for you Jim Stauber is your man.
  • Fight against making existing highways into toll roads.
  • Advocate the fully funding of C.H.I.P'’s.
  • Support the right of workers to organize and join unions.
  • Stop the environmental disaster of the TT-35 Corridor plan.
  • Toughen our environmental laws.
  • Advocate honesty & integrity in state government.
  • Create a climate for more and better paying jobs through education & training.
Come support Jim Stauber on Saturday.



For directions and more info click continue reading.

One of you suggested I provide directions, which is a smart idea I overlooked earlier: (I believe these directions are if you're heading south on IH-35)

Picture IH-35: Once you hit Georgetown, get in lane for the Williams Drive exit. Turn east onto Williams and get in second-most left-hand lane. At the intersection with Austin Avenue, turn left (north) but get in right-hand lane for quick turn onto Stadium Drive. Once past the stadium, turn left and follow that park road until you see the Gazebo (looks like big bandstand) on your right. As to parking, it may be that you'll be closer to the Gazebo if you continue on the park road until it turns back in the opposite direction. MAP

This is also another opportunity to whet your appetites. We have some world-class chefs on the briskets, among them Paul Stempko, J. P. Malus, and Jim Stauber himself. Courtney's adoptive mother Joyce White is making her famous barbecue sauce and potato salad, the kind you always wish was served at functions like this. Yours truly is doing up the beans which even vegetarians can partake, using varieties of capsicans from her own organic garden...giving sus frijoles a spicy kick but rest assured even kiddoes can enjoy. Plenty of bread, sliced onion and dill pickles. Dora from Taylor--not even a resident of Jim's district but still a fan and always a dedicated Dem has made cakes like you wouldn't believe. O,Yummy, some goodies for your tummy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Great Editorial On Perry's Problems

Dave McNeeley has another great editorial this weekGov. Perry's special sessions backfiring:
Perhaps there is a new chairman for the Carole Keeton Strayhorn Booster Club: Rick Perry.

Yes, the Republican governor, who keeps calling the Texas Legislature back to pass what he says are improvements for schools and tax policy, continues to see things blow up in his face. Strayhorn, who announced recently she'll challenge Perry in next year's Republican primary for governor, has been taking potshots at Perry for months. Sometimes she's had to strain for ammunition. No more: Perry is now re-loading her guns for her.
If we can all go back to the end of the regular session our governor was telling everyone that he wouldn't call the legislature into special session - and waste our money - unless he had a deal. Well Guess what, he called them in without a deal. He was trying to fight off a couple of rumored primary challengers at that time. The most likely to give him a run for his money, at that time, was Sen. Hutchison, and she was saying the governor should do something. Then, the Senator said she wasn't going to run, but the Comptroller announced her intention to run against the governor instead. So on her announcement day, Gov. Perry started this charade, to take the spotlight off of her announcement. She wasn't taken very seriously back then but back then, of course, the governor was going to bring property tax relief to everyone. Now with the governor doing tremedous damage to himself and now starting to drag the party down with him, I'm sure at least a few Republicans will give the Bush-connected Strayhorn a second look.

McNeely also talked to Sen. Shapliegh about the state of things in the legislature right now and it's pretty interesting:
Monday afternoon, a frustrated Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, took a break from a Senate caucus discussion on the matter. Shapleigh sat in the otherwise empty Senate chamber and explained that the three major leaders - Perry, House Speaker Craddick and the Senate's presiding officer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - have vastly different priorities.

Perry, Shapleigh said, is interested almost solely in cutting local property taxes enough to impress national anti-tax spokesmen.

"He wants to go into the Grover Norquist Hall of Fame with the greatest tax cut in Texas history,'' Shapleigh said.

Meanwhile, Dewhurst, alone among the leaders, actually wants the Legislature to put significant new money in schools, Shapleigh said. So do a majority of senators.

But with Perry insisting the school finance outcome should be ''revenue-neutral'' - replacing some taxes with others, but with no additional money being raised - putting new money into schools is going to be tough.

And Craddick, Shapleigh observed dryly, just wants to go home. The Speaker would rather wait for the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, glacially considering an appeal of a lower-court ruling that Texas' school finance system is unconstitutional and far too meager, to provide the Legislature some direction - or perhaps just let it off the hook, by overruling Travis County District Judge John Dietz's order.


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Thursday, July 28, 2005

The "big 3" In Disarray

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, despite his claims that he again had the votes, did not have the votes to bring up SB 2 on the Senate floor today. This article, Legislators 'started peeling off', does a great job of showing where the legislature stands:
The education bills fine-tuned by Republican leaders had hung around long enough for opponents to organize. And by this week, there were a lot of them.

Teachers hated the miserly pay raise and the emphasis on standardized tests; businesses felt whacked by new taxes; Democrats defended consumers(I really like that line); school superintendents complained their districts would lose funding ground and local control; the Senate didn't like the high sales taxes; and the House protested the low tax relief.
When you look at it that way it's amazing it got as far as it did. Something for everyone to hate and nothing for anyone to like. Further into the article we hear from the "big" 3:(My comments in italics)
Craddick:
"A lot of members thought there wasn't enough property tax relief. Some members didn't want to vote for a tax even if it meant property tax reduction," he said. "Some people are opposed to putting more money into schools. You have a huge mixture out there."

Let me see if I got this right. If there would have been more property tax relief, no taxes and less money for schools he could have gotten a bill passed?
Dewhurst:
"I don't think there is any question that the governor, the speaker and I would like to come out with a good solution," Mr. Dewhurst said.

"The Senate wants to act. They want to see education reform. They want to see local property taxes reduced," he said. "Don't confuse the House and the Senate."

ACTions speak louder than words, and I don't see any action. That sounds like a shot at the House, Mr. Speaker, which you lead.
Perry:
Mr. Perry said the naysayers won the day in the House, which left him "shocked and surprised."

He laid the blame on education groups and those who would pay the new taxes, such as the 10,000 businesses that had escaped the state franchise tax, and tobacco interests.

"The special interests want to protect the education status quo. They want to protect their tax loopholes. They want to protect their market share of tobacco addicts," Mr. Perry said. "Why should the special interests win at the expense of school children, parents and taxpayers?"

That's 128 naysayers Governor! So along with the naysayers he blamed educators, taxpayers and addicts for killing his, ahem, plan that was supposed to help two of those groups? If the governor could have gotten the educators and taxpayers on his side he probably would have been home free.
So with the Republican leadership in total disarray an education lobbyist had a little advice:
"There ought to be a rule that you never have a special session on school finance in the summer," joked Brad Shields, an education lobbyist for school districts that depend on industrial property taxes. "Because all the teachers and superintendents are off, and they have lot of time to get involved."
I have to admit I hadn't thought of that until I read it and obviously either did the "big" 3.


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Support Paul Hackett

Inspired by Greg Wythe when he bestowed the title of Honorary Texan on
Paul Hackett, Texas Bloggers, led by Burnt Orange Report, Off the Kuff, PinkDome, and Greg's Opinion are calling today
upon all Texans (and friends of Texas) to join ranks and donate
towards the very cause we have been arguing for this past week- Run
Everywhere, because it's what our Party and our Democracy needs.

hackett.jpg


His success is our success, not just as Texas Democrats, but as
Democrats period.

"Paul Hackett is hereby granted "Temporary Texan" status from now and
election day in the Ohio 2nd (August 2). I'm pretty sure I have no legal
standing whatsoever to convey Texan-ship, but who am I to let that stop
me?"


Certainly not us Greg. So join
us
today, in a special edition, Texas Thursday, for Honorary Texan
Paul Hackett. Let's roll.

The Republicans are up to their same ugly shenanigans in this race. They are trying to smear this former soldier like they did John Kerry, Swift Boating of Hackett Kicks Into High Gear:
Eric Minameyer, an advisor to Jean Schmidt (Hackett's opponent), was just the beginning of the "swift boating" of Paul Hackett in what appears to be a coordinated effort by her campaign. Upon arriving at Hackett HQ this morning to take some photos and videos, I was shocked to hear that the deplorable tactics have been taken to a new level in the past 24 hours.
All of this just because he's running as a Democrat! Please help him in any way you can.


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Chris Bell Says, "I'm In"

Here is his statement:
Dear Friend,

Over the past half year, I have traveled all over Texas, literally exploring the race for governor. You have indulged me in this process as I sought the answers to some important questions, some personal (and Alison's doing better every day, thanks) and some of them public: Can a Texas Democrat win? Are Texas Democrats ready to try something different? Do people see what is happening in Texas the same way that I do?

Well, I have my answers, and today I am proud to share the news that I've decided to run for governor.

If you ever want people to question your sanity, explore running for statewide office as a Democrat in Texas. When this started, I had no clue as to how people might respond. I have not been that nervous about getting on the phone since running for Houston City Council the first time. Everyone agreed that it would be a tough road for any Democrat but, interestingly, the overwhelming majority of people with whom I spoke could also see that Rick Perry is creating a huge opportunity for a Democrat. They also agreed it wasn't enough for me to be right about Rick Perry being wrong; it would take a positive message that could unite all Texans.

As I've traveled the state, I've been talking about the "New Mainstream," the disaffected majority of Texans who know that Rick Perry couldn't lead a silent prayer. I've been talking about how budgets are moral documents that have both a fiscal impact as well as a human cost. And, as a public school parent, I've learned that parents and teachers across Texas share my frustrations with Enron-style accountability that encourages dropouts and systematic fraud by teaching our kids nothing as much as how to take yet another standardized test.

The best part of the exploration phase has been watching as people came out of their seats to cheer. Some memories have really stuck with me: the young college student who approached me in Brazos County, with tears in her eyes, telling me how inspired she was by what I had said; the pastor in Mount Pleasant who told me he would be with me all the way; the County Chair in Lubbock starting the chant, "Run Chris, run!" I won't pretend that people were responding to me so much as to hearing someone talk about the world the way it is, and not just the way it polls.

The one remaining question was whether my wife, Alison, would be up for the fight. I am happy to tell you that the prognosis after chemotherapy is as good as it can get. Ali has been my rock ever since we've been together, and there's no way I would embark on something as challenging as a race for governor without her feeling up to it. As everyone knows, she's every bit the fighter I am, and she feels strong enough to join me in this battle.

We're launching our campaign for governor on Sunday afternoon, August 14th, at 2PM in Austin, and Alison and I want you to join us there. If you would like to help organize participants from your city, please let us know. Information about the launch rally is available here.

We are going in with eyes wide open, aware not only of the odds but also of the possibilities to achieve great things for Texas. I look forward to seeing you in Austin and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship and support.

Sincerely,

Chris

P.S. Ironically, as I was writing this letter, I received a "thought for today" e-mail from a friend. It was a quote from Anatole France that says, "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." I couldn't have said it better myself. I dream of a better state and believe we can build it together.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

GOP...CYA

This from the TDP site, TEXTBOOKS AND MONEY FOR TEACHERS AND GET OUT OF DODGE??:
Unconfirmed but generally reliable sources


The word percolating around the nearly empty halls of the Capitol this afternoon is that GOvernor Perry is now suggesting damage control to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick. It boils down to acknowledging that there is no steam left to pass a major education or tax overhaul.

According to our sources, a new bill would be rolled out that would simply fund school books and some kind of teacher pay raise -- Maybe as little as simply funding health insurance.

According to just about every poll out there, the only two things upon which the voters insist are more money for teachers and paying for textbooks. Passage of those two elements would save some faCe and give all of the plaYers some cover for the next campAign.

As this is being written, Dewhurst is on a conference call with Senators.

Stay tuned. We may have to eat some crow. We will see
The Quorum Report also says, SENATE TO TAKE UP SB2 TOMORROW. After all that went down in the house on Tuesday are the Democrats in the Senate gonna let this get out of the Senate? I sure hope not. End this sucker tomorrow!


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Joint Statement From Rep. Krusee and Rep. Gattis on Failure Of HB 2 & HB 3 Yesterday

Click here for audio.

Or as the Taylor Daily Press puts it in this article House kills school bills:
Representatives Mike Krusee and Dan Gattis both cast "no" votes.

The vote on House Bill 3, the bill designed to lower school property taxes by raising the sales tax and closing business tax loopholes, failed by a vote of 124-8, with seven legislators casting "present" votes and 10 others absent. On the motion to send House Bill 3 forward, Gattis voted "no" and Krusee voted "present."

Neither Gattis nor Krusee was available for comment regarding their votes on the bills.
Then the Speaker blames it on school superintendents:
"The school superintendents beat people up on this," Craddick said.

Dr. Bruce Scott, superintendent of the Taylor ISD, said that a big concern for superintendents is the "unfunded mandates" in HB 2, which require additional expenditures without providing funds to pay for them.

He said Tuesday that a $1,500 pay raise for teachers included in the proposal would have eliminated a $500 stipend for health insurance. That stipend was cut from $1,000 during the 2003 legislative session.
Didn't Republicans used to scream their heads off about "unfunded mandates"? I guess that's gone the way of term limits.


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Dad Was Right

If there is one thing I had drilled into my head by my Father when I was growing up it is the fact that insurance companies are the biggest crooks on the face of the earth and they have bought and paid for most politicians. He would ask me, “Tell me one thing that you can do and don't have to have insurance to do it”? Of course, I couldn't answer that question because there isn't. Meaning start a business, drive a car, buy a home, etc. The point always was that if you "must" have insurance to do things then if MUST be regulated. Only the problem comes when those doing the regulating (legislators) are owned by the regulated (insurance companies). Dad's words were going through my head the whole time I was reading this article, The insurance lobby's hold on the Legislature that was in the Statesman written by Alex Winslow is executive director of Texas Watch. Here are a few excerpts:
Recent reports by the Austin American-Statesman have confirmed a long-held suspicion: insurance companies financed the political operation of a prominent business lobbying group in 2002.
This group, the Texas Association of Business (TAB), is the target of an ongoing criminal investigation and is the defendant in numerous civil lawsuits arising from the group's political activities.
[and]

When they got to Austin, lawmakers found themselves in a quandary. Homeowners and doctors needed help, but the insurance companies who funded the drive that got them elected wanted to keep state regulations weak.
So the Legislature passed a half-baked insurance "reform" bill that years later still hasn't resulted in any meaningful rate relief for homeowners or drivers. We still pay exorbitant premiums that are more than twice the national average. In fact, Texans paid nearly $4 billion in insurance overcharges last year alone — an average of $600 per home and $200 per car. And State Farm, the state's largest homeowners insurer and one of TAB's biggest donors in 2002, has refused to lower its rates one penny.

As for the high medical liability premiums doctors were forced to pay, insurers used Texas doctors to push a proposal to strip Texans of their legal rights. Instead of cracking down on the very small number of doctors who commit the majority of medical errors and then forcing insurers to lower their rates accordingly, lawmakers chose the insurance industry's path. They enacted sweeping legal changes that shielded the insurance companies from responsibility, leaving untold numbers of Texans without any ability to hold an irresponsible doctor or hospital accountable for devastating, life-altering injuries.

The insurance companies' investment in an illegal campaign racket during the 2002 campaign has paid off handsomely. Now, three years later, they continue to reap huge dividends from that investment at the expense of policy-holders, who continue to pay too much, and patients, who are left with no real recourse against wrongdoers.
Has anyone's insurance costs gone down since 2002? All of this is just another benefit of one party government.


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It's Not An End But A Beginning

There will be many editorials written in the coming days with words like "“confusion"”, "“melt down"”, "“implosion"”, "“disaster"”, etc.. in the title. All of those words accurately describe what happened yesterday on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives to the Republicans and Gov. Perry's plan in particular. For those that want real tax relief – meaning a fair and equitable tax system – and school finance reform, it's not an end but a beginning. Like a drunk or drug addict before they can start the rehab process for real, they have to hit rock bottom. If this isn't rock bottom for the Republicans and their tax/school finance scheme it can't be far off now.

The best analysis I've seen so far is at Greg's Opinion. It's long but well worth it. Here is an excerpt:
With HB2 dead in the tracks, HB3 (the tax bill) was next in line for the firing squad. Here, at least, Perry did realize his dream of consensus ... a mere 8 State Reps voted FOR the bill. Yep ... 8-128, with the bill's author voting against it. That may be the biggest statement made of the entire special session. Pinky's right... 8 votes does not repartisansrtisanship.
This goes back to the things that the Democrats said last week: They (the Republicans) can't even agree among themselves and it's hard to pass bad public policy. All Republicans in the house were enamored with the IDEA of passing true property tax relief for their constituents until, I'm sure, they started to look at what they would have to do to replace that money. As the property tax relief became less and less and the taxes on their constituents - not those that finance their campaigns - became higher, it took away any political advantage for them. Their ability to go home and tout this plan in their next campaign on the stump became worse and worse. In fact it would probably have been used by their opponoffern an effor to defeat them. Why would they pass a bill that may cost them their house seat? There is the dilemna for the Republicans in the house. Go with the governor and your slit your throat or hold out for a plan that will actually address the problem. They chose not to go with the governor.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

FORMER PROSECUTOR ANNOUNCES HER CANDIDACY, For Justice Of The Third Court Of Appeals, Place 3

AUSTIN – Long-time Austin attorney, Diane Henson, announced her candidacy for Justice of the Third Court of Appeals, Place 3. This position is presently held by Democrat Bea Ann Smith, who has announced that she will not seek another term on the court. Henson brings 26 years of experience in various capacities, as a prosecutor and as a civil litigator.

An honors graduate of Drake University Law School, Diane Henson began her career as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. prosecuting corrupt politicians. Henson, a board certified attorney, was the first female litigation partner at one of Austin’s most prestigious firms, Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody and practiced there for 12 years before opening her own law firm in 1995. Henson practiced law with Bea Ann Smith at Graves, Dougherty for several years before Smith was appointed to the Court of Appeals. Henson has received two Outstanding Achievement Awards from the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association. In 1997, Henson was inducted into the American Board of Trial Advocates, an honor that few lawyers are able to attain.

“A fair and independent judiciary is important for the protection of the rights of all Texans. We must have a balanced court, free of undue influence by special interests,” said Henson. “Any time one political party has too much power, there is a real opportunity for both corruption and extremism. Our courts should be independent of political control or influence.”

In 2004, Henson almost upset Republican incumbent and former Rick Perry aide, Bob Pemberton, who had been appointed to Place 6 on the Court of Appeals. Despite George Bush’s tremendous coattails, Henson, the Democratic nominee for Place 6, earned nearly 49% of the vote in her first try for elective office. Henson received more than 360,000 votes, was endorsed by law enforcement groups and was one of the few non-incumbent judicial candidates to be endorsed by several major Texas newspapers. Henson stated, “We were within striking distance and we’re going to build on that base of bi-partisan support.”

As a young attorney, Henson achieved national attention for her ground-breaking litigation involving Title IX on behalf of young women in sports. Thousands of young women have had opportunities to attend college on athletic scholarships because of Henson’s work.

The Third Court of Appeals encompasses 24 counties in central and west Texas: Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Coke, Comal, Concho, Fayette, Hays, Irion, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, McCulloch, Milam, Mills, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Sterling, Tom Green, Travis and Williamson Counties.


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Texas Parent PAC Web Site

Here's the link, Texas Parent PAC. Here's what they're all about:

What is a “PAC”? How is Texas Parent PAC organized?
A political action committee is a private group organized to raise money and make contributions to the campaigns of political candidates. A PAC typically contributes to candidates who share its viewpoints and policy concerns. Texas Parent PAC is organized as a Texas general-purpose political committee and is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in Texas. The PAC will file public reports of its contributions and expenditures with the Texas Ethics Commission. Contributions from individuals are unlimited; however, the PAC cannot accept contributions from corporations or labor organizations because it will support candidates.

Contributions are not deductible on federal income tax returns.

Anyone who makes a contribution becomes a member of Texas Parent PAC. Members will receive communications about PAC campaign activities via email.

What are the values of Texas Parent PAC?
We are loving parents united by traditional mainstream American values that honor and support families, faith, communities, freedom and democracy. We are committed to all the children of Texas, as they are our future, and their need for high-quality public education must be met. Representative democracy is based on trust, and parents historically have trusted state legislators to consistently vote in the best interest of our schoolchildren. Unfortunately, many Texas lawmakers have betrayed that trust, which is why Texas Parent PAC was created. We value the freedom for parents to recruit legislative candidates who are moral, public-spirited men and women committed to invest in public education. Texas Parent PAC members will raise and contribute campaign funds, volunteer in primary and general election campaigns, and go to the polls and VOTE. It’s the American way!


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HB 2 Is Dead

Keep Checking Pink Dome and Rep. Pena's blog A Capitol Blog.


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Good News On HB2

Pink Dome has the details, Holy Crap!:
Right now, every jaw in the Capitol has dropped. After some particularly underhanded moves by the leadership, Representative Scott Hochberg presented his own plan for school finance. Included in the amendment is greater property tax relief for most Texas homeowners than was included in HB 2. It also includes a full restoration of school employee health benefits, a larger teacher pay raise than in House Bill 2, and increases in compensatory education, bilingual funding, and facilities funding. After some debate it passed 76-67, a huge margin of victory.

Cross your fingers that they don't try to twist arms & motion to reconsider the vote. Craddick & Grusendorf have no idea what just hit them.
Those would be some major changes to HB 2 if they were able to make it through both houses and land on Perry's desk. That will probably never happen, at least not any time soon. But what I think this shows is that a majority in the house are fed up with the craziness that's been going on for the past few years, as far as so-called property tax relief and school finance are concerned that is. That's the problem for not just Craddick and Grusendorf but Perry and Dewhurst too. These issues may have finally come to the point where if they - the Republicans - want to get something through the legislature they will actually have to come up with a plan that fixes the problem. The House it at ease at this point so I wouldn't be surprised if some of that arm twisting is happening right now.


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Picture This

Great image from this Houston Chronicle article, Bill may fall short by half-billion, board says on why the legislature is having a problem getting it's tax scheme passed.


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Monday, July 25, 2005

Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) Update

TTC News Archives is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to keep up with the latest on the TTC. The two latest articles posted on that site are very interesting.

The first one is about how Williamson County Rep. Krusee is trying to make he gets everything the way he wants it on toll roads other than the TTC. They post this article, Of pigs, pythons, doughnuts and eminent domain, from today's Statesman in it's entirety. It's a story of toll roads, commercial facilities and that recent "hot button" topic eminent domain:
What's interesting about it, at least for this column, is language inserted by Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, that would prohibit the Texas Department of Transportation from condemning land to build anything in the median of a toll road other than a convenience store or service station.

If this language survives in a future eminent domain measure -- and both houses said yes to it in SB 62 -- it would cancel to some degree law that the Legislature just passed in May.

Way back then, two months ago, lawmakers said in House Bill 2702 that it would be OK for the Transportation Department to acquire land, either with a willing seller or through condemnation, for an "ancillary facility" on a tollway, including "a gas station, garage, store, hotel, restaurant, or other commercial facility."

Commercial facility, of course, brings in just about anything an entrepreneurial mind can conjure up.

That provision, however, did not apply to the Trans-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's proposed 4,000 miles of intrastate toll roads, railroads and utility lines. Rural folks had raised enough of a stink about the idea of losing farm acreage for a Hilton Hotel or a doughnut factory on state land that the corridor was slapped with the gas station/convenience store limitation.

Not so the rest of the state's roads (with or without tolls), mostly because the sponsor of HB 2702, state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, wanted it that way.
Not because it's the best thing for Texans. Not because it's what makes sense. Not because it's what's right. Just because Mike Krusee wanted it that way.

The next story is just to remind all of those involved in trying to change what will happen with the TTC. Anything passed this session will not change anything for those in the way of the current TTC route. Here is the story from the Taylor Daily Press, Legislation will not save property in path of TTC:
While lawmakers say they want to limit the ability of all levels of government to take private property, they've steered away from protecting land needed for public projects like highways and railroads. Any legislation that passes might protect citizens from having their property condemned so it can be re-sold to private developers, but it won't offer protection from condemnation to build highways, railroads or similar infrastructure.




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Jim Stauber's Kick-Off This Saturday!



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Have You Heard Of The Texas Parent PAC?

What is it you ask? Well here's how they describe themselves:
Parents of Texas schoolchildren have reached their boiling point.

Time and again, they've watched the Legislature attempt to overhaul the state's public school funding system. Time and again, the legislators have come up short.

Fed up, the parents are taking a page out of the politicians' playbook and forming a political action committee of their own. The goal: to oust old guard lawmakers they say don't support public education.
Hmmm...Does anyone know a couple of legislators that fit that description? The longer this drags on the worse it seems to get for our current state leadership. It's just bad public policy they are trying to push through the legislature. It seems like many, many people are starting to recognize this current "plan" for the sham or scam that it is.

This article I found, Mr. Representative: Whom are you representing from Waco Tribune-Herald. It's calling out Rep. Jim Pitts for not honoring his commitment on his promised vote pairing with Rep. Dawnna Dukes a couple of weeks ago. Refresh your memory here, Dukes Trades Horses With Rustler. It also calls him out for blaming his change of heart on his constituents:
Pitts backed out of a deal he had with State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. Dukes was going out of state and made an arrangement with Pitts pursuant to a tradition called “vote pairing” on House Bill 3, the school finance bill. Dukes opposed HB 3. Pitts supported it. Since they would cancel each other out, Pitts agreed to vote “present” rather than “aye.”

But when the tally was razor-tight, Pitts backed out of his agreement and voted, giving HB 3 the margin it needed to clear the House. To charges that he caved to Speaker Tom Craddick, Pitts countered, “My constituents put the pressure on me.”

Baloney, wrote Sandy Manning, editor of the Ennis Daily News.

“HB 3 has been vilified by every teacher and administrator caucus, association and group in the state of Texas,” she wrote.

HB 3 “punishes the Ennis ISD and the other districts in Pitts' district by granting wealthy districts like Plano and Highland Park a huge per-pupil income advantage.”

Yes. HB 3 carves away at the revenue sharing now benefiting low-property-wealth school districts under the “Robin Hood” system.

The Equity Center, which represents low-wealth districts, estimates that roughly 90 percent of Texas school districts and their taxpayers lose out in the bill that oozed from the House.

Those taxpayers, Equity Center director Wayne Pierce said, would “pay a property tax rate 25 percent higher than the state's wealthiest districts so that their children can have less spent on them. How in the world can anybody pass that?”

Which constituents, Mr. Representative, are pleading to come out on the short end of tax equity and for their schools to come out on the short end of funding? Are these real constituents or perpetrators of identity theft?


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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Two Must Read Editorials

These two editorials tell the tale of why we are where we are today in the state of Texas. It's the infusion of corporate cash into our government and the inability of the people that corporate cash paid for to fix our schools. Last week in this post, A Problem Of Historic Proportions, I pointed to a Texas Observor article that showed why Texas was setup not to have corporate cash in it's politics and that they a good public education was a number one priority. These two editorials show that the current leadership in Texas is doing everything they can to make sure both of those are no loner the case. Enjoy

Perry, Legislature lack real will to redo school funding
The three or four Texans who may think another special session of the Texas Legislature will actually improve the public schools are fooling themselves. So are people below the highest income brackets who expect their overall tax load to be noticeably lightened.
Paying a premium to ensure victory for the Texas GOP
The Texas Association of Business might have given Texans an unintended look at just why there is a law against corporations contributing to political campaigns. And if it beats back all the civil lawsuits and criminal investigations, consumers will discover what living under a corporately controlled state government is really like


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Saturday, July 23, 2005

They Can't Agree Among Themselves

This is a good article from today's Statesman, Majority GOP has difficulty agreeing. Its about where the problem lies within the Republican and their inability to reach an agreement on taxes and school finance.
One-party government was supposed to be easier than this.

For 2 1/2 years now, Republicans have controlled the Texas House and Senate, not to mention the governor's office and every other statewide elected job. And yet lawmakers have not agreed on a way to pay for public education, an issue with major political implications in every corner of the state.
It then goes to talk about how the once lofty goal of significantly lowering property taxes for everyone has now just turned into a tax swap with only a minimal lowering of property taxes and higher sales taxes. Here, Rep. Chisum says it better:
Rep. Warren Chisum, a Pampa Republican and one of the House negotiators, said it would be tough for Texans to remember the smaller-than-advertised property tax cuts when paying sales tax on bottled water for the first time or paying $1 more in taxes on a pack of cigarettes, two ideas floated during the tax talks.

"When we were talking (about cutting) a full one-third in your property taxes, you kind of looked back home and said that would be hard not to do that," Chisum said, referring to earlier plans to reduce the maximum $1.50 school tax rate by 50 cents.

"But if you're talking 25 cents and you're in a district where the values are increasing at a rapid rate, you're afraid in a couple of years that will be gone," he said.
So the Republicans fear of raising taxes on anyone who donates money to them has left them only with the option of raising taxes on those that don't give them money.
Concerns of one industry or city can derail the tax proposal, which passed the House by a single vote earlier this month.

And sometimes the opponents take their concerns public. Tobacco company Philip Morris USA Inc. recently ran radio ads urging defeat of the tax plan, which would have more than tripled the cigarette tax.

Some members of the House and Senate also have questioned whether House Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican from oil-rich Midland, wants the tax swap to pass because it does little to shift the business tax burden away from capital-intensive industries like oil and gas.
So that's why. But what about the school children of Texas? Isn't that what this is all about? It seems to me that a company that resides in Texas and needs workers would want educated workers. Educated workers in turn are probably more productive and therefore would help your business be more productive and for that matter profitable. So wouldn't it be in a businesses best interest to help fund a good public education in Texas?
"There were a significant number of members who finally were able to go home and tell their constituents, 'I didn't like it, but I had to vote for it to keep the schools open,' " said Ratliff, who advises the Texas Association of School Boards.

Also complicating the talks are the differences between House and Senate districts. A House member represents approximately 140,000 people, while a senator represents about five times as many.

That fact weighs particularly heavy on school finance matters because education and taxes hit home with voters much more than most issues. A House member can cast his vote based on how it affects one particular school district, but senators rarely have that luxury.

For instance, more than a dozen House members recently said they would not vote for a school finance plan unless it capped the amount of money that districts with extremely high property values relative to their enrollments must share with the rest of the state.

No senator took such a public stand in favor of the cap, probably because anyone who represents those wealthy districts also probably represents schools with vastly different needs.

"As a result of redistricting over the years, House seats are very homogeneous," Ratliff said. "A House seat is either all rural or all suburban or it's going to be all inner-city.

"Because the districts are so small, they tend to be very polarizing. Most senators are going to be representing some or many of those very different groups."
But in the end it just goes back to reelection politics and don't forget what Rep. Coleman said a few days ago, "These bills are bad public policy, it's hard to get an agreement on bad public policy, it's easy to get an agreement on good public policy". I couldn't agree more.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

Rep. Carter Votes To Make Permanent Provisions Of The Patriot Act

Lawmakers voted 257-171 Thursday to make permanent 14 of the Patriot Act's 16 sections that are scheduled to expire in December:
Section 215, in particular, has drawn fire from librarians and civil libertarians who say it could let the government snoop on ordinary citizens who aren't involved in terrorism investigations. About 390 local governments and states, a few dozen of them in Northern California, have adopted resolutions opposing the provision, along with other parts of the Patriot Act.

The vote came at the end of a long day in which the House of Representatives debated some 20 amendments and the bill itself. But the Republican-controlled Rules Committee barred votes on several other amendments, including one offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, which was identical to a provision the House had approved June 15 as part of a Justice Department spending bill.

The Sanders provision, which didn't become law, would have barred the FBI from spending money to look into readers' book-reading records at libraries, but would have given authorities access to Internet usage at libraries.

Sanders, referring to the earlier House vote, asked why the Rules Committee barred a vote on his amendment this time.

"This is an outrageous abuse of power and deprives a majority of members of the right to put into the bill what they want,'' Sanders said.
Here's the vote.


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Friday Rant, Anybody Heard From Krusee or Gattis?

I've been searching the internet ever since the governor started calling special sessions in June and there is almost nothing in the media from Rep. Krusee and Rep. Gattis about what is going on. The only thing I've been able to find is this article, Texas legislators see abrupt end to summer recess, from the The Cameron Herald - dated June 23, 2005 - which has a few quotes from Rep. Gattis in it. Here's my favorite:
"There's no plan that has been openly discussed," said Dunnam. "I think it would be more constructive to spend a little time to talk about alternatives before we get into the confines of a special session."

"It's not the sticking point. I see it as the starting point," said Gattis. "We were very close in May. We'll begin negotiations there. I think there always is a way to agree when you have time to sit down and reflect on what everybody's positions are. It's the art of politics and compromise. It's how we get things done."
There are those words again and thanks for the art lesson. Art is always in the eye of the beholder. Rep. Krusee, not a peep. I guess since vouchers are not on the agenda these two guys really don't have much to bring to the conversation. I'm sure they'll just vote how the Speaker wants them to vote.

Former Statesman columnist Dave McNeely has this to say about the current state of things:
The reason everything went into the ditch is that both houses of the legislature are so divided they can't get anything that gets sufficient agreement.

This is a different bunch, with a different House speaker and lieutenant governor. They're all Republicans, and a large majority of the House and Senate are Republicans.

However, almost all the Democrats don't want to raise taxes unless it's going to education, and don't think the very modest addition to school spending is anywhere near enough.

And while a handful of Republican legislators, more interested in investing in education than skimping, are willing to raise taxes if it results in more money spent on schools, most other Republicans track Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick in simply opposing raising taxes
It's a different bunch, that's for sure. He touches on one topic - the fact that the Republicans can't agree among themselves - that is more along the lines of what was said by the Democrats yesterday in their press conference, "These bills are bad public policy, it's hard to get an agreement on bad public policy, it's easy to get an agreement on good public policy". I'm paraphrasing, but that is what Rep. Garnet Coleman said. He also said that the other reason it's bad public policy is the fact that it raises taxes on 90% of Texans and lowers taxes on the wealthiest 10%. To riterate the other thing they said a few times was that , "they (Republicans) can't agree among themselves". If the Republicans could agree among themselves we'd have had an agreement years ago. They're trying to slide something through the legislature that they can't get a majority of the people in their own party to agree on. They won't vote for it because they're afraid that they won't get reelected if they vote for these bills. Oh they're close alright.

A few more things from the Democrats press conference yesterday. Rep. Gallego was talking about how women should be offended by what Speaker Craddick has done by not appointing any women to his select committee. Not to mention the fact that there are no Latinos or people of color on the committee either. He spoke to the fact that this is a slap in the face (my words) to representative democracy. They also referred several times to the secrecy surrounding all of this. The fact that the Republicans are holding back the bills so members can't look at them until right before the vote and that there will not be any hearings on the bills in their current forms before they are debated in the chambers. They spoke about the fact that the telecom bill was added to the call not because of it's need to be passed for to make things better for the people of Texas. But by putting this on the table then the telecom lobbyists can be brought to bear on the members of the legislature to lobby them to pass HB 2 and HB 3 so the telecom bill can be passed too.

All of this and don't forget that if these bills pass it does not fix the long-term problems with school finance and the fundamental problems with the tax structure in our state. Now Gov. Perry is threatening to stay in through the holidays to get this done:
Indeed, Mr. Perry's office is sounding that theme, warning lawmakers that they will be in the Capitol until an education plan is passed: "If they want to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus in Austin, that's fine with the governor because they are going to stay here until they get this done," said spokesman Robert Black.
It's become an endurance test to pass something, no matter how bad it is, and next session we'll be back her debating this all over again. Hopefully with a new governor and some new legislators.


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Williamson County Is Being Noticed!

The site Save Texas Reps posted this, Winning's Not the Only Thing, earlier in the week. It's more on the run every race theory and the need for action in even so called "safe" Republican areas. Here is the part about Williamson County:
Serious candidates are willing to campaign at least half-time - full time in the final three months leading up to the election. They are men and women who are confident, well spoken, and have strong ties to the community. This is a long term strategy that doesn't concentrate on big money, but allowing local Democrats to build their own party from the ground up.

Look at the Williamson County Democrats or the Fort Bend Democrats - local grassroots activists that are building strong organizations in traditionally "safe" Republican districts. This is the future of the Democratic Party.

Republicans learned long ago that only running safe candidates was the fastest road to irrelevance. Instead, they started running full slates - from local school boards to the White House. By saturating the market in Republicans, they were able build familiarity and comfort with voters.

Of course, more resources will go towards battleground candidates and races where we know we can win. But choosing to write off the longshot and the little guy is doing the Republican Party's work for them.

This is a long term strategy, but one that Texas Democrats are going to have to employ if they don't want to isolate themselves into irrelevance. There will always be pessimists and naysayers who want Democrats to follow the old and failed way of concentrating on fewer and fewer races, but the end of that path is winning no races at all.
Thanks Save Texas Reps for noticing and thanks also for mentioning it.


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Run Every Race, Oh Yeah

Over the last few days a debate has started among some Texas Democrats about whether or not we should run candidates in every race. Even if, as some say, a Democrat has no chance of winning that race. My thinking on this is absolutely, we must have a candidate in every race on the ballot. It's just a good policy. If we are going to be an opposition party, we must oppose the other party, especially when they have all the power. What if the shoe-in candidate turns out to be a bad candidate or has a skeleton in the closet that comes out before election day? Another thing I hear quite a bit from those coming in to help out in Williamson County is that the Libertarians always have a candidate in every race, why don't the Democrats?

The whole discussion started with the news that state Senator John Lindsay is retiring with this post from gregsopinion, St. Senator Lindsay ... Out!. I believe it was this part here that prompted the response:
For Democrats, the goal here is simple ... run someone and make sure they're out on the streets walking, talking, and dropping lit where nobody's home. An active campaign may well be a losing effort in a district that tends to go 75-25 Republican. But this is possibly the best shot to see the district go 30, 35, or maybe even 40% for a Democrat. If Joe Nixon's the nominee, we've got a real opening here to do some good for the party overall.
The response from Marc Campos was this, Big Bad John, SD 7. Most of the editorial is about Sen. Whitmire's filibuster. But it ends with this:
Yesterday, an internet opinion suggested that Dems field a candidate in SD 7. They said Dems can go from 25% to maybe 40% - from a severe a__ whipping, to a solid a__ whipping. Bad idea. It costs $1250 to file for state senator. Better idea to send that money to Ellen Cohen.
First of all as all, we in Williamson County know the filing fee is waived if you get your petition signed. Next as many others say later in this discussion, if you get it up to 40% Democrats in this senate district the vast majority of those will be voting for Democrats in other races. Here is the part from Greg's retort:
Without candidates, we are nothing as a party ... nothing. With only a half-slate of candidates, we're half a party (see how the math works, there?). A $1,250 donation to Ellen Cohen would indeed be a worthwhile investment. But a candidate pulling in up to 40% in SD7 is likely to get some crossover votes not only for themselves, but for countywide candidates. They're also more likely to get a few more volunteers out into the streets and onto the phones. These things all add up so that, eventually, the Ellen Cohens (and Hubert Vos and Scott Hochbergs) of the world are not quite as beseiged by allowing the GOP to pour a neverending stream of resources into a what few areas of opportunity they have as a party.
This battle will rage until, hopefully, the Democratic Party in Texas is back running candidates in every race and if not running or a huge part of our state government at least opposing the Republicans in every race. Charles Kuffner posted on this as well and had this to say in his post, it's a good wrap-up of the discussion so far:
If we truly care about our own values, we'll strive to bring candidates who promote them to voters who share them, wherever those voters may be. If we do that, I'm willing to bet we'll find that the support we get, both in terms of votes and donations, is greater than we think. We Democrats in Texas have been complaining about the national party hitting us up for cash for it to spend on races and candidates everywhere else. We should be treating our allies in places like SD7 the same way that we want the DNC to treat us.
That is the last point I want to make here. The DNC and the TDP's have both committed to a strategy of running candidates in every race:
This is Charles Soechting, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. When I was elected almost two years ago I was told by "people in the know" that I was wrong to recruit candidates to run in races where we couldn't win. We were wrong to support candidates in places where we could not win. We were wrong to work with the campaigns of people like Hubert Vo because he couldn't win. Hubert's campaign managers, Karen and Mustafa, showed that good candidates can win in marginal districts. If you want to make sure that you don't lose a race don't run. The only sure way to make sure you fail is to not try. It is a guaranteed formula for loss, defeat, whatever you want to call it. Democrats do have limited resources and SD 7 would be a hard race----for one reason---the Republicans drew it to be hard! They drew it to be safe for R's. Thank God Sam Houston and others did not have the "play it safe" attitude that is all too pervasive in today's politics. I encourage every Democrat to recruit candidates to run in every race. We are poised to take advantage of the dishonesty and corruption in the Bush White House, the Perry administration, the ineffective Dewhurst Senate and in the Craddick Cartel. Do any of you seriously believe that the scandals of the R's will go away in time. The R's are dishonest crooks and we should be poised to defeat them. We should be prepared with candidates and have faith if not dollars that the voters are capable of figuring out that the party in power has abused the power. There is strength in honesty. We should all stand tall as Democrats and not allow a few to tell us who should and should not run, who is and who is not the right candidate but rather we should gather together and support all of those who believe in the principles which make our Party what it is-----Honest, Responsible and capable of governing. Democratically yours, Charles Soechting, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party
Scroll down in the OffTheKuff link for the Soechting comments. Let's discuss but in my opinion it comes down to the fact that what the TDP has been doing for the last decade or so hasn't been working and it's time to try something new. To continue doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insantiy after all.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

It's A Really Bad Bill

There were two press conferences today, you can find them both here. One with Lt. Gov Dewhurst and Speaker Craddick and the other with several Democratic Representatives.

What Dewhurst and Craddick said can basically be summed like this. Check out how small Dewhurst makes Craddick look:
  • We're close
  • I had the votes to pass it (Dewhurst)
  • I had the votes to pass it (Craddick)
  • HB 2 is a good bill, really, I'm serious, I'm not just saying that
  • HB 2 is revolutionary (Dewhurst)
  • Educators never like any school finance bill (Dewhurst), no matter how much money we give them (Craddick)
  • We're frustrated
  • It's a good bill
  • We're very close
  • We've made progress
  • It's Sen. Whitmire's fault
  • We're even closer than close, I mean we are so close.....

The Democrats said things a little different.
  • HB 2 is a bad bill, really, we're not just saying that
  • If it's so good why are they negotiating in secret
  • Did you know that SBC was lobbying members to pass HB 2 so they could get their telecom bill passed too?
  • The House has only white males on it's Conference, now Select Committees
  • Everyone is focusing on whether there will be an agreement, not what the agreement will be
  • This is a bad bill, educators were calling members all day telling them to vote against it
  • The House/Craddick didn't have the votes or they would have voted on it
  • The Senate/Dewhurst didn't have the votes or they would have voted on it
  • It's a really bad bill

OffTheKuff has his great commentary here, The endless legislative summer continues . He asks this question:
What I want to know is this: What happens if the Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst triumvirate push a bill through the joint committee process, and it gets voted down by one or both chambers? Do they give up and send everyone home, or do they try the radical concept of taking a different approach, one that doesn't involve raising taxes on 90% of the population in order to give Highland Park a much-needed break?
Good question. It's a good bill. There is one part from today's Statesman article I won't to highlight here about what educators said about HB 2:
Supporters of the bill said that it provides more money for small schools and for students who speak limited English and that it gives schools greater flexibility in deciding how to pay their teachers. They've also cheered the fact that it reduces the amount of money that property-wealthy school districts send to the rest of the state.

"More of those new dollars are spent in the classroom than ever before," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. "It provides more equity than this state has ever seen before. It provides more property-tax relief."

School officials have complained that the Legislature's plans for school finance reform imposes too many new requirements on districts, including one that would have forced schools to spend at least 65 percent of their money on classroom instruction.

"It's going to be a 10 to 13 percent cut across the board in non-instructional programs," Moak said. "Non-instructional programs include counseling; they include food service; they include health services; they include school discipline activities."
That's a really good bill?

My take on all of this is that maybe at some point in time the goal actually may have actually been to improve schools in Texas and lower property taxes for most, if not all, Texans. Now, after this has been run through the meat grinder of the Texas legislature for the last two regulars sessions and too many special sessions, I believe the goal now, for those running Texas, is to just pass something, anything, no matter how good or bad it may be. It's a really bad bill! I mean it!


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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Governor MoFo Calls Them Back Tomorrow!

Hurricane Emily was the BIG news tonight on all the Austin locals at 10 pm. But the governor makes it official, Texans can kiss another $1.7 million goodbye. They should just Sine Die already and come back and start fresh in the morning.


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Rep. Pena Calls It A "Death Watch" On The House Floor

Go check out his blog, A Capitol Blog - keep checking in he's updating this post. Here's the post, HB 2 DEATH WATCH:
Okay folks, this is it! It is now 8:25 p.m. and the House is at ease. WHY?

There are not enough votes (or they are choosing not to vote) in the House to pass HB 2. We are essentially in a "death watch."

It's like watching the Shah of Iran being shuttled from place to place until death quietly came. No country wanted to be responsible for him, rather they waited for death to do its deed.

Neither the Senate nor the House wants this HB 2 to die in their hands. And so we wait.......
Kinda sad, isn't it?


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Yes On Filibuster

I think the Democrats should filibuster HB 2. Why pass a bad education bill that can "some day", at the whim of the Republicans, become law? Either pass school finance refrom independent of the tax bill or pass nothing at all. Force Perry, Craddick and (d)ewhurst to fix the whole enchilada or nothing at all.

Like Sen. Whitmire said, “If it’s a good bill today, it’ll be a good bill tomorrow after an airing out,” Whitmire said.

It can also be said the other way, If it's a bad bill today, it'll be a bad bill, or even a worse bill, tomorrow after an airing out!


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An Open Letter To The 79th Legislature

From the Center for Public Policy Priorities:
July 20, 2005

An Open Letter to the 79th Legislature:

Nothing is more important to your district than public education and taxes. HB 2 would profoundly affect both. However, the bill is extremely complex. While colleagues are telling you what they think the bill would do, as President Reagan said: "Trust, but verify." In the time available, you cannot verify what the bill would do or whether any runs you have seen are accurate.

For example, you are being told that HB 2 would reduce the funding gap for operations between property-rich districts and everybody else. I have reviewed the Equity Center's gap calculation and methodology, and agree with the Equity Center that HB 2 actually increases the funding gap for operations to at least $635 per weighted student in average daily attendance, giving a typical elementary school in a property-rich district approximately half a million more a year for education than other elementary schools across the state. The terrible inequities for facilities funding grow worse with the reduction in the Instructional Facilities Allotment in HB 1.

How HB 2 would affect taxpayer equity is equally troubling. Both homeowners and businesses in property-rich districts would get significantly more property tax reduction than taxpayers in other districts. Under HB 2, in essence, the state would pay in full for the optional homestead exemption in the property-rich districts, but not in other districts. In other words, taxpayers across the state would be paying extra to give homeowners in property-rich districts a 20% reduction in their school tax bill, making their effective tax rate 96 cents. On top of that, super-wealthy districts would get their school property taxes lowered to as low as 90 cents. How do you explain that back home?

HB 2 would not end the school finance litigation now before the Supreme Court because if the school property tax is an unconstitutional state property tax at $1.50, it does not become constitutional merely because it has been compressed to $1.20. Adding 3% more money to the system over two years does not create "meaningful discretion" at the local level. To begin with, it doesn't cover inflation, and in any event, would have to be spent on the new mandates in HB 2. Moreover, because HB 2 does nothing about facilities and increases the funding gap for operations, HB 2 would breathe new life into the equity claims now pending before the Supreme Court.

We urge you to vote "No" on HB 2.

Sincerely yours,

F. Scott McCown

Executive Director, Center for Public Policy Priorities


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Update

Postcards From The Lege gives up a couple of updates.

The first one is that about the status of HB 2 in the Senate, Support slipping on education reform:
Lacking the 21 votes needed to immediately bring up the school reform bill, HB 2, the Senate went into recess shortly after convening this morning at 10:30 and devolved into knots of conferring senators around the chamber floor.

They're scheduled to get back at it at 2:30 p.m., not coincidentally the time when Senate rules allow the 470-page bill to raise teacher salaries and give Robin Hood a change of clothing to come up for debate with just 16 votes. Until then, Senate rules would require a vote of two-thirds of the Senate, or 21 votes.
That calrifies when the Senate can bring up the bill. Then next one is about the possible filibuster, Senator threatens filibuster:
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he "most likely" will filibuster HB 2, the education reform bill that would give the so-called Robin Hood funding system a makeover and raise teacher salaries, when the Senate goes back into session this afternoon.

[and]

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, sponsor of HB 2, said she had 17 votes at last count, enough for passage in the 31-member Senate. But the "runs", a calculation of how HB 2 affects the money flow for each district, were apparently done incorrectly Tuesday. So senators were looking at a new run this morning to see how their districts fare.
HB 2 has a bad case of the runs? That's not good. Stay tuned.




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As The Lege Turns

When last we left the Lege it was being threatened with another special session by the governor. Will it happen? Stay tuned, all day, to see what happens in today's installment of “As The Lege Turns”.


The best I can tell is the House can't take up HB 2, unless the rules are suspended until, 6:10 PM today. The Senate I can't find a definite time on their calendar but I would say they won't take it up until the house does. (They've now recessed until 2:30pm). What does HB 2 do you ask? All these wonderful things:
If HB 2 becomes law, it would dramatically change education in Texas.

• It would phase in a $2,000 teacher pay increase over two years, although it would also eliminate a promised $1,000 health care stipend for teachers.

• It delivers another $250 million to school districts for teacher incentive programs, while simultaneously requiring districts to allocate 1 percent of their payroll for incentive programs.

• It phases in a requirement that districts spend 65 percent of their budget on classroom instruction.

• It sets a uniform starting date for public schools on the first Tuesday after Labor Day, beginning in 2006.

• It alters the share-the-wealth school finance system by allowing property-wealthy districts, such as Highland Park in Dallas, to keep more locally generated tax revenue. The changes would also likely allow such districts to set lower tax rates than other districts.

• Beginning in the 2009-10 school year, high school seniors won't be able to graduate without passing end-of-course exams.

• It allocates money for fine arts, health and foreign language textbooks set to go into classrooms this school year. However, it moves toward more electronic and computer-based instruction in later years.

But none of those provisions can take effect without passage of HB 3 or a similar tax bill.
The last sentence is the kicker. If HB 2 passes that's why the Lege will be back in session tomorrow. If it doesn't then everything is up in the air, maybe Thursday, maybe September to start all over. For the final word on HB 3 in this special session we'll go to Sen. Ogden:
Late Tuesday, House and Senate negotiators said they are a hair's breadth from a deal. But even if they made the deal, it would likely fall victim to legislative deadlines or a promised parliamentary maneuver by a Senate Democrat who opposes the legislation.


"The reason the deal is dead is because they're out of time, not because they can't agree," said state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Spoken like a football coach on the losing side of the scoreboard when one says, “We didn't lose we just ran out of time”. For the latest from around the state go to this post from OffTheKuff and Burnt Orange Report has some more on HB 2 and HB 3.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another Special Session!?

The big story, right now, is that Gov. Perry is threatening to call another special session as early as Thursday. One thing to keep in mind is that it's all predicates on HB 2 passing this session. Here from Pink Dome is what HB 2 is all about:
ALTHOUGH THE HB3 TAX BILL MAY NOT PASS, HB2 INCLUDED SO-CALLED "EDUCATION REFORM" PROVISIONS THAT WOULD PROVE EXTREMELY HARMFUL TO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. AND SOME DEMOCRATS MAY NOT YET UNDERSTAND THAT HB2 COULD GO INTO EFFECT SHOULD HB3 PASS IN A FUTURE SPECIAL
SESSION.

THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON HB2 INCLUDES THE WORST OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE VERSIONS OF THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE BILL. THE ONLY "REAL" PASS THROUGH TEACHER PAY RAISE IS $500, NOT THE AMOUNT THE LEADERSHIP IS SPINNING. THE BILL'S UNFUNDED MANDATES EAT UP ALL THE SO-CALLED "NEW MONEY" LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS WOULD RECEIVE, LEAVING THEM WITHOUT ANY NEW DISCRETIONARY FUNDS. THE PLAN WOULD PROVIDE A FINANCIAL WINDFALL FOR RICH DISTRICTS LIKE HIGHLAND PARK AND DESTROY EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE EQUITY.
The other interesting part of the post from Pink Dome is that it's a call to make sure all Democrats are on the House floor tomorrow for the vote. Some were in their districts because of the hurricane.


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Is It Over? For Now?

Quorum Report has the scoop, HB3 OFFICIALLY DEAD FOR THIS SESSION:
Disappointment over the inability to find a broad based business tax underscored the final conference committee on HB3 this afternoon.

Conferees once again reiterated that they were close on a final bill. Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden even said that if the odds of success were great if the Governor did call another special session.

But the reality is that the grandiose visions of major school property tax reductions were all but vanquished absent a solution to the ultimate question of how to bring service industries and partnerships into paying taxes. What was once an $8-$14 billion dollar tax bill during the regular session had been diminished down to a mere $2 billion.
Sen. Ogden is always the optimist. From what I understand they are going to get the school finance part finished, if they still have the time:
***NOON UPDATE***
The conferee's have signed off on HB 2. Now it goes to the printers and is delivered to all the members. A vote cannot occur until 24 hours after all the members get a copy to analyze. Of course on a 2/3rds vote they could suspend the rules, but all the insiders that I've heard from say this isn't likely. The Senate conferee's are still looking at language on HB 3. It's still not been signed off on and it will have to go through the same process. So if a compromise on HB 3 is found it will probably be tomorrow evening before it is taken up for a vote. Stay tuned...

***AFTERNOON UPDATE***
HB 2 has been said to be in member's hands by 7pm tonight. That puts the it on the floor at 7pm tomorrow night, unless they vote to suspend the rules. If HB 2 and HB 3 have been decoupled, so now one can pass without the other. However is HB 2 (teacher pay, textbooks, etc) passes without HB 3 (how to pay for everything just mentioned) then the local districts have to cough up the money (can we say unfunded mandate?). Stay tuned...
Then they may come back in September for another try at property tax relief, they're gluttons for punishment. Can't work in August since the legislature and governor have plans.


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Deal....What Deal?

Charles Kuffner has all the state-wide newspaper reaction, Deal? No deal? Who knows?. He also links a to a Express News editorial that reiterates something I've been saying for a while:
After watching this governor and this Legislature over the past few years, we sadly have reached the conclusion that they are unable to govern effectively.
Burnt Orange Report has the timeline for the rest of this special session House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up ***Update***
***Early Morning UPDATE***
Well, it seems the I's have be dotted and the T's crossed. As had been mentioned in the comments, it is believed that Speaker Craddick is going to "let" the Republicans vote their districts on HB 2 thereby dooming it. HB 3 is said by the Statesman to contain a .75% raise in the sales tax. The Senate has vowed to reject anything over .5%. HB 2 won't be eligible for a vote until Wednesday morning and HB 3 won't be eligible for a vote until Wednesday afternoon (unless 2/3rds vote to suspend the rules). It remains to be seen what the compromise is and the threat of a filibuster still looms in the Senate over HB 3. Unless a miracle happens it seems that this special session was for naught. It seems the only thing that was proven is that still nobody likes the proposals that were introduced during the regular session.

Tick, Tick, Tick...
This is like Texas weather though, wait an hour, it'll change.


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Monday, July 18, 2005

Williamson County Judge John Doerfler Is Prepared To Borrow Money For Projects

Last week in my post about last week's Commissioner's Court meeting it was becoming apparent the county doesn't have enough money to cover it's needs. So this, County may borrow for projects, should not come as too big a surprise to anyone that reads this blog. It's just part of the trickle-down effect of Republican tax policies. If there is anyone out there that still believes that a government can bring in more money by lowering taxes it's long past time to give up believing that line of bull.
According to Doerfler, the county could use bond proceeds to restore the courthouse, a project funded in party by a state grant. Originally projected to cost $5.5 million - with $1.5 million coming from the county - the project cost estimates have steadily moved upward and now stand at $7.5 million or higher, meaning the county could spend at least $3.5 million.

In addition to the courthouse project, the county will probably need to spend more than $4 million to upgrade the radio system used by sheriff's department officers and other public safety personnel.

"Besides the radios and the courthouse, we need to pay for a new animal shelter, the county annex in Round Rock needs to be expanded and we need to pay for the property and annex that's going to be built in Hutto," Doerfler said. "That's just too much money to take out of the operating budget."

Doerfler said as the budget process progresses, he's going to propose borrowing money as the way to keep the general fund budget within projected revenues while still getting the needed projects completed.
The things in bold are upgrades for "Homeland Security" reasons.


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They've Got A Deal...Again...We'll See What They Say Tomorrow

I'm sure it's a beauty, now that it's been through the meat grinder of the Conference Committees and the "big 3" negotiations. Read about it Postcards From The Lege and Quorumreport


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The Games Legislatures Play...

...via Pink Dome.


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A Problem Of Historic Proportions

As the House and Senate Conferees try to salvage some kind of deal relating to their stated crisis regarding school finance and property tax relief, it's important to understand that what they are discussing now will do nothing to fix the "crisis". I'm not being pessimistic, just telling the truth. No matter what they agree on, in it's current form, this will be an issue during the next legislative session. Right now we are at exactly the same place we were at the end of the regular session and if Gov. Perry calls another one it's exactly where we will be at the end of that one too. It's no longer about fixing schools and lowering taxes on the citizens of Texas. It's about gutting schools to make the ground more fertile for vouchers and making sure the wealthy pay less taxes.

The Texas Observer has an article, What Goes Around, Comes Around, which tells us of the historic place public education and protection from corporations has in Texas. The exact things the Republicans are now trying to dismantle are the very protections put in place back when the Republicans were kicked out of power in Texas after reconstruction. Ironic isn't it?

Back during the regular session the Texas Observer blog had this post relating to vouchers, The Last Payoff, Part I:
What's amazing about all this energy expended on pushing vouchers in Texas is that it's not something the public particularly wants. There is no groundswell for vouchers. Instead, there is one very wealthy Republican campaign contributor who over the past 10 years has spent millions in campaign contributions for this day. That man is a San Antonio doctor named James Leininger. He is the last of the big contributors from the 2002 GOP campaign to get what he wants.
Here is how the votes went in the House on SB 422, the voucher bill, and you'll notice both Rep. Gattis and Rep. Krusee were pro-vouchers the whole way. I think the voucher twins - Gattis and Krusee - need to be asked a fundamental question: Do you believe in public education?


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The Lateset On The Special Session...

...from Charles Kuffner Tick tock, tick tock.... He's got analysis from most of the biggies around the state.


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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Everything In My Power or Whatever Happened to Property Tax Relief?

Before I post the latest analysis on the special session I want to note a few things. The rush the Conferees are in that are working on a deal to "save" this special session - or is it Rick Perry's hide they are trying to save? - is not rushing to come up with a deal that is equitable, or a deal that is the best for the school children of Texas or even about property tax relief. It's now just about getting something, no matter how bad it is, out soon enough so that it can't be killed by a filibuster. Sen. Ogden has dropped all his fancy rhetoric about doing everything in his power to keep the sales tax increase to a half a penny. We now know that he was either just pulling everyone's leg or he never had any power to begin with.

Start reading this from Rep. Hocbergs's newsletter, What happened to the promised property tax relief? That's a good question representative. Here is jus t a little of what he had to say:
Almost to the end of the first special legislative session of 2005 and the leadership's property tax relief has been whittled down to very little compared to the original promises.

Truth is, it never was a "tax relief" plan as much as it was a tax shift. Property taxes were to have been replaced by increases in sales tax and tobacco taxes, plus a newly designed business tax to replace the current franchise tax that more than 90% of Texas businesses have learned to avoid. (Those avoiding the Texas franchise tax include Dell, SBC and just about any other major company operating in Texas.)

While consumers are still targeted to pay for much of the remaining shift through higher sales and tobacco taxes, the long-awaited reform of the franchise tax has fizzled, leaving the leadership without the revenue needed to make a serious dent on property tax rates.

Why?
Soechting is pissed at the Senator's that voted for HB 3 last week. Can you blame him? Here is the story on that, Demos may face state party backlash:
Soechting said Democrats should not trade votes.

"Dammit, it's just time for them to do the right thing without regard whether some damn lobbyist is going to give them another big check down the road, or whether some guy like David Dewhurst is going to promise them that next time he'll really do what he didn't do," Soechting said.
Here's Kuffner to wrap it up, Coming down to the wire on school finance I especially like this part:
Yeah, right. The day Rick Perry scolds a legislator for bowing to a corporate master is the day NASA announces it's replaced the space shuttle with a lawn chair and balloons.
Oh yeah, the Senate is already out until Monday so I guess that makes if filibusterable, if that's even a word?




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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Senator Ogden Fears Voters May Want, "A New Sheriff In Town"

Obviously he hasn't seen this blog yet. If he had he would know that to be a fact. Here is the rest of the article, Leaders running out of time for school finance deal
A serious, prolongued dispute at this late hour could be a killshot, but Keffer said he would rather do nothing than pass a bill just as a political exit strategy.

"We know time is of the essence here in a special session, but just to do something to do something, I think would be wrong for the state of Texas," he said.

Nor, suggested Ogden, would it do politicians much good. Calling the legislation a "transition plan" at best, Ogden said he feared that passing it might lead Texas voters to conclude it's time for a new sheriff in town.

"I frankly fear going into the next election and telling the voters this is the best we can do and this is all we can do. `vote for me' " he told reporters.
This just underscores the point that if they get this "plan" through the legislature that it's only a band aid, at best. That being said no matter what it is a campaign issue and it will be on the agenda next session.


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