Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Texan Of The Year, Representative Carter Casteel



Thanks to Pink Dome for putting all of this together.

As we nominated and then voted on nominees for this award I always had someone rated higher than Representative Carter Casteel. When I found out she had won I was kind of ambivalent about the choice. Then I started going back over her actions last session on the defeat of vouchers, and her vote for the "Hochberg Amendment". This article in particular, Revenge of the Rural Republicans, did much to remind me of what she did. I began feeling a little bad that I hadn't rated her higher or as my number one choice, for that matter.

Her decision to stand up to Speaker Craddick, wing-nut money changer Dr. James Leininger, and the many Republican voucher sheep - in order to save what's left of our public schools so there is still a chance they can become what they should be - was an extraordinary act of courage, dignity, justice and just plain doing the right thing. It was one of those things that seems, in retrospect, so obvious, a no-brainer if you will, but someone had to step out front and do it. Her actions showed those who may have voted against the best interest of their constituents, that for the sake of the good of the state, they had to vote for what was right and not for what the money changers wanted.

It's the simple things in life, the monotonous tasks of everyday life, that don't seem like such big things bur are. And often it's not the most powerful people that transform debates when they make what seem like everyday decisions that lead to greater good. It brings to mind many of the statements made about Rosa Parks after her recent passing. She was just a woman who was tired, on her way home from work, and didn't feel she needed to move from her seat for an idiotic (my words) law. Just like Rep. Carter Casteel, who was just sticking up for her constituents - doing what she was elected to do - and reminded us all that doing what is right is the easy choice to defend.


Check out what the other blogs have to say. Burnt Orange Report, Off the Kuff, Brains and Eggs, In The Pink Texas, The People’s Republic of Seabrook, Common Sense, Houston democrats, By the Bayou, The Agonist, A Little Pollyanna, Just Another Blog, Sharpening Our Wits, Appalachia Alumni Association, Annatopia, and The Jeffersonian.


...Continue Reading!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Do You Live In Texas House District 52?

Would you like someone to represent you that believes in public education?

Would you like someone to represent you that believes in improving healthcare?

Would you like someone to represent you that believes every new road doesn't have to be a toll road?

If so turn those beliefs into action this Sunday and come out and blockwalk with Karen Felthauser and gang. Come meet new Democrats and help Karen get the signatures she needs to run for office in 2006.

Details:
Let's get together Block Walk Blitz II for this Sunday, December 4 from 12 to 4PM. We will be knocking on Democratic Primary Voters doors in NW Austin. Almost all are very happy to see us. We will be collecting signatures for my petition for State Rep. and also for Mary Beth Harrell's, who is running for US Rep. against John Carter. Please let me know if you can attend. We will plan to meet at the McDonald's on 183 (10732 Research Blvd) at about 11:30. We will target several good Democratic precincts which do not currently have chairs. We will meet at the Applebee's (11013 Lakeline Mall Dr) afterwards to collect signatures and celebrate our accomplishments.
If you can make it please RSVP to Karen at 218-4943 or karenfelthauser06 at austin.rr.com


...Continue Reading!

Monday, November 28, 2005

WCDP 2005 "Holiday Social" , Thursday, December 8th 6:15PM

Fellow Democrats,

Another year is coming to an end but the best is yet to come!!!

Please join the party in celebrating as we remember 2005 and prepare for 2006.

The

Williamson County Democratic Party


cordially
invites you
to attend
your
2005

"Holiday Social"


Honored Guests:


*Charles Soechting, Texas Democratic Party Chair

*Robert Andrews, Representative
for Barbara Radnofsky, Candidate for U.S. Senate

*Maria Louisa Alvarado, Candidate for Texas Lt. Governor

*David Van Os, Candidate for Texas Attorney General

*Mary Beth Harrell, Candidate for US Congress, District #31

*Jim Stauber, Candidate for Texas House of Rep. #20

*Karen Felthauser, Candidate for Texas House of Rep. #52

Thursday, December 8th, 2005
6:15 P.M.
Mesa Rosa
15515 FM 620
Austin, TX 78717


$20.00 donation per person.
Dinner includes: Beef and Chicken Fajitas, trimmings and tea.
Cash Bar.

We will also be collecting canned food items for the
Round Rock food-bank
and
Signing Candidate Filing Petitions.

Please RSVP by December 1st to ensure
plenty of food.


Democrats
CAN WIN
in
Williamson County!!!



www.williamsoncountydemocrats.org


...Continue Reading!

Jim Stauber Campaign for State House Representative District 20

PRESS RELEASE-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



JIM STAUBER ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DISTRICT 20


Cites dismal record of Representative Dan Gattis

The dismal record of the last legislative session has encouraged me to continue the fight to replace Dan Gattis as the Representative of District #20.


I will immediately work to:

Prohibit local and state government from taking your homes and land for private development by others for their commercial profit.

Dan Gattis refused to support this prohibition.


Restore 2900 Texas State jobs to Texas residents, which the legislature eliminated by outsourcing to a low paying private company and, possibly, non-Texas residents.

Dan Gattis voted to allow outsourcing Texas State jobs to non-residents.


Restore funding to the CHIPS Program (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to provide adequate health care to Texas children and return Federal funds to Texas.

Dan Gattis voted for a lesser and lower level of care for our children and to turn back, to the Federal government, millions of our tax dollars.


Move immediately to make the Toll Road Authority answerable to the public by making the members elected officials instead of appointed officials.

Dan Gattis opposed making the members directly answerable to the voters.


Move immediately to restore reasonable public access to State Programs.

Dan Gattis voted to make access difficult.


Move immediately to make school funding a priority.

Dan Gattis failed, through five legislative sessions, to deal with school funding.


THE SCHOOL FUNDING DISASTER: In five legislative sessions, including two special sessions specifically called to deal with the school funding disaster, Dan Gattis and the Republican controlled legislature spent millions of the taxpayer’s money meeting – day after day - yet failed to move one step forward to solve the school funding problems of Texas. Before this last legislative session, the Republicans said that their number one priority was once again school funding. It turns out that they lied to us. It turns out that their number one priority was attending the inauguration in Washington D.C. When they returned to Austin they reminded us that their number one priority was school funding, but they lied to us again. Their number one priority was Telecommunications. Then their next priority item was to give judges a raise, which of course resulted in giving themselves a raise for their pensions.

Here goes some more wasted taxpayers money. From the Austin Statesman paper dated 11/23/2005 “The Schools need more than tinkering.” Now that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled not to rule on funding our public schools, the whole mess will be going back to the State Legislature. The Republican controlled government of this state has proved that they cannot govern. They give tax breaks to big business, waste tax payers money, shove toll roads down our throats, give raises to judges & to their pension plan, redistricted the state through gerrymandering but when it comes to our children’s education they could really care less. Dan Gattis, State Rep. for District #20, wants to have school vouchers. He even went so far as to take $10,000.00 for an organization named All Children Matter. All Children Matter is an organization that supports politicians that support school vouchers. School vouchers rob money from our public school system. Dan Gattis likes to brag on how much money that the state spends on public schools but if they are doing such a good job then why are we last in the nation on high school graduations? Why are we in 48th place when it comes to SAT scores? Why is Texas 46th. In the nation in the number of teachers with a degree in the subject they teach? Why does Texas rank 32nd. In the nation when it comes to teachers salaries? Texas is 34th. In the nation on dollars spent per student. We must educate our children! When I am elected I will do my best to support our public schools & teachers.



DAN GATTIS HELPED RAID MONEY MEANT FOR THE ELDERLY, THE DISABLED AND THE POOR: Dan Gattis, and others in the Legislature, took money from those who need it most - the elderly on fixed incomes, the disabled, and the working poor. They shamefully took advantage of Texas citizens who have no big money lobbyists to protect them. In 1999 the 76th Texas Legislature deregulated most electric utilities. A System Benefit Fund was created to help the poor and needy. Every Texas utility customer pays about 65 cents a month into this fund. This money pays for rate reductions to house holds below 125% of the Federal poverty level. About $200 million goes into this fund every year. This has helped about 780,000 Texans a year to keep their lights on. In 2003 the Republican controlled legislature raided this fund of $183 million to help fill a $10 billion budget gap. This resulted in only being able to help about 350,000 Texans. This past legislative session was even worse! Several legislators filed bills to restore the fund but the Republicans on the budget conference committee including Representative Dan Gattis thought otherwise. They raided the account balance of $427 million and diverted it to the general fund. This is wrong, wrong, wrong!! This is money that Texas consumers will pay into the fund with the belief that it is going to help the needy. Shame on Dan Gattis and the rest of the Republican Party for taking money from the poor! I will move immediately to restore the System Benefit Fund money to its rightful recipients, the elderly, the disabled and the working poor.



When I am elected to the Texas State House next year, along with other Democrats, we will right these wrongs! The citizens of District #20 deserve better, Texas deserves better.



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 the Children’s Health Insurance Program (C.H.I.P) 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.”

“I will fight to restore the System Benefit Fund money to its rightful poor and needy recipients.”

“It is time to elect a candidate who understands the needs of the average Texas working man and woman. Who has 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.”



More information can be obtained by contacting: info@jstauber.com





...Continue Reading!

More On The Ruling And What Lies Ahead

The Supreme Court Ruling last week to uphold the property tax portion of Judge John Dietz's ruling does nothing to change the goals of the vast majority of the Republican Party in Texas when it comes to education.

I see their goals as:

1.End "Robin Hood"
2.Get rid of the moderates in their party
3.Pro-vouchers
4.Break the teacher's union (65% Ruse)
5.Starve public schools.

Like this Houston Chronicle article shows, Court has spoken: School system on verge of collapse, the majority opinion made every effort to try spur those in charge to put more money into education for the future, without actually saying those words:
"There is substantial evidence ... that the public education system has reached the point where continued improvement will not be possible absent significant change, whether that change take the form of increased funding, improved efficiencies or better methods of education," the court wrote.
But of course a statement like this is again turned into a folly by our governor. He doesn't believe it, even when it comes from his hand picked judges:
But whether the governor is committed to actually improving the schools remains to be seen. He says he is, but he also joined several other conservative spokespersons in praising the high court for reaffirming his belief that "simply pouring more money into the same system will not alleviate the property tax problem."
Here's my problem with that, "“..pouring more money into the same system..", makes it sound like we have an already bloated education budget, when the exact opposite is true. Take this from the recent Dave McNeeley article, Tax commission starts with arm tied back:
Some think Texas is over-spending on schools, and its people over-taxed. But the truth is Texas ranks well below the national average in spending on schools, and close to the bottom in state taxes per person.

Texas is one of just seven states with no income tax. (The others are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.) That means we rely on two principal sources for most of our revenue: sales and property. Texas has the nation's fourth-highest sales tax, and is 15th in property taxes
He goes on to lay out his argument for a state income tax. But since nobody other than Eliot Shapleigh want to discuss it, what's going to happen?
OK, so without an income tax, what will the Sharp group do?

Since property taxpayers are already screaming, the only remaining broad-based tax to make up the difference is the sales tax. It may be expanded to take in services like attorneys' fees, and possibly the rate raised as well.

The commission will probably tinker with a franchise or business tax, at least to close gaping loopholes. And don't be surprised if there are attempts to revive gaming (that's gambling, folks).

Sen. Shapleigh says to raise the $24 billion additional he says is needed for good schools and property tax relief solely through raising the current state sales tax, unless it is broadened, from its current 6.25 cents per dollar to 17.3 cents. It would be far and away the highest sales tax in the country.

It will be interesting to see what the commission comes up with, and even more to see what happens to it in the Legislature.
It just brings to mind that old adage of sausage and legislation to mind, "There are two things you don'’t want to see being made - —sausage and legislation."









...Continue Reading!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rep. Krusee Clarifies His Rail Dream

This article from The Statesman's Ben Wear, Where there's a rail dream, there's likely to be an election, has quite a bit in it. It even has a map. It looks like a case of a politician shooting his mouth off before telling the other's involved. But early on we find out the main reason he believes this is needed is, of course, so we can keep up with the "cool" cities and be "hip":
Krusee, in his remarks to a huge forum looking at the development issues raised by the coming Texas 130 toll road, said that Central Texas is engaged in a running competition for jobs with other "cool" cities such as Denver, Seattle and Portland, Ore. Rail, and the hip station-area developments that rail fans say would come with it, are important in creating the kind of milieu that draws employers, he said.
Really? (Makes me think of Chris Rock's bit on the "old guy in the club"). Well at least it won't cost very much:
The cost of all that, frankly, has not been toted up by anyone, even in preliminary form.

But it's safe to say that it would be north of $1 billion or maybe even $2 billion, especially counting what it will cost to move most of Union Pacific's cross-country freight operations to alternate tracks east of Austin.
But it won't be hard to get the money, right?
Capital Metro, even if it could prevail in the increasingly tough competition to get federal New Starts funding for rail projects, would probably get only half the project cost from Uncle Sam. The other half, no matter what the exact figure, would be far more than Capital Metro could gin up from its 1 percent sales tax.

The transit agency might have to ask voters, in a separate ballot question, to let it sell bonds. And get money from surrounding cities likely to have stops on the lines. And from the state. And then scour the couch cushions.
So did Rep. Krusee does Rep. Krusee really think he can get all this on the ballot in November?
So, did Krusee actually think that somehow enough of that voluminous groundwork could be laid in time for an election on the full smorgasbord of rail just about 11 months from now?

Well, no, he said last week.

"I felt like it was my job to start the discussion, lay out a goal and see if others want to join me," he said. "It's not like a plan hatched by Capital Metro and me."

He plans to have private discussions on the subject with other community leaders - people such as Austin Mayor Will Wynn and former Austin City Council Member Daryl Slusher, he said -— in the coming weeks.
Just getting it out there? Again this all started after the recent election which Rep. Krusee stumped hard for Proposition 1, which if you recall, "..would establish a fund through which taxpayers would help pay for relocating freight rail lines from congested urban areas." Those freight lines will be turned into commuter rail and bring all the cool and hip jobs to Austin.



...Continue Reading!

How Does School Finance Ruling Look Now, Post Thanksgiving?

The Texas Tax Reform Commission (TTRC), the state legislature and the governor have 7 months from Thursday to come up with a plan to fundamentally change the way our schools are...HA HA HA HA HA...I thought I could make it all the way through without laughing. The best this crew is going to be able to do is put some kind of band-aid on this thing that will be left to future legislatures, governors and whatever kind of blue ribbon commission they can come up with. Let's face it in 7 months time all these guys could agree on would be to give themselves another pay raise.

If we had a governor in this state he/she would tell everybody to hold on a second and take a deep breath. Let's bring not only both sides of the political spectrum together but a wide swath of community leaders and maybe even a few citizens - you know the kind of people that work for hourly wages, or a single mother, or an a retired person - and try and truly change how we finance our schools in this state.

Now earlier I joked about our state leaders and Mr. Sharp's commission and I really believe the best they can do is a short-term solution. But in all seriousness, I hope I'm wrong for the good of this state and the many hard working teachers, parents and students that deserve better than we've been giving them. I hope these groups will go around the state and LISTEN to the people and come up with a solution that will serve us all for many years to come.

To put it simply these groups have 7 months to come up with a way to lower property taxes. That's it! Not fundamentally change the tax structure. Not fundamentally change the way we pay for our schools. Just lower property taxes and raise some other tax. With Republicans in charge if you in the lower 60% like me prepare for a tax increase. Or as this Star-Telegram editorial put it, Lawmaker's finance idea likely to get another look:
Meanwhile just about every state level politico is jumping on one bandwagon or another in regard to this situation, from the governor on down. But absent creation of a state income tax -- fat chance -- in the long run what will probably emerge will be only a slightly tweaked version of Grusendorf's unsuccessful House Bill 2. It reduces property taxes by a third while producing, Grusendorf estimates, more than $3 billion in new revenues.

Does that mean we'll all end up paying less total taxes? Don't bet on it. The cash has to come from somewhere, the most likely candidates being a higher consumer tax -- read that as higher sales taxes -- and also higher business taxes, all of which ultimately are also paid by consumers. In this we are reminded of one of the most eternal bits of wisdom: There's no such thing as a free lunch.


Some further reading on this from this weekend:

Is it the Texas Tax Reform Commission or the Texas Political Cover Commission?

Here's what the ruling didn't fix, Focusing on taxes, not schools:
Whatever the merits of last week's Texas Supreme Court ruling on public school finance, it cannot compel Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to compromise. Nor can it endow Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with the moral authority (and political terror) that the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock could bring to solving knotty state problems. And the court's ruling did not inspire Gov. Rick Perry to expand his ambition for public education beyond cutting school property taxes.

As a result, the next special session of the Legislature called by the governor to deal, yet again, with public school finance likely will focus on tax cuts, not quality education. That might be OK if Texans could expect genuine, equitable reform of the state's antiquated tax system, but recent experience cautions against hope.





...Continue Reading!

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Death Penalty

Whether you're for it or against if you read this story and the whole series on this case from the Houston Chronicle on Ruben Cantu it's obvious we need to scrutinize how we administer the death penalty in Texas, Did Texas execute an innocent man? Maybe a moratorium like in Illinois, especially on any cases that where we could now use DNA to make sure one way or another. And don't forget the other part of this tragedy, Ruben Cantu Tragedy: The real killer is still out there.




...Continue Reading!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Sign Of Hope On Thanksgiving

I would like to highlight what looks like a good direction the Democrats are taking on a national level with regards to Iraq. It's not just forcing the Bush administration to finally start answering questions about the horrible situation in Iraq but pointing out the fact that, like everything else this administration does, they have politicized this war and it needs to stop, for the good of our country. What I'm referring to are these two statements this week from Rep. John Murtha and Sen. Barack Obama.

Rep. Murtha at The Huffington Post, Time for a White House Meeting on Iraq :
It's been less than a week since I spoke out calling for the redeployment of our troops to the periphery of Iraq in the most timely manner consistent with protecting their safety. I've been moved by the immediate outpouring of support I've received, including the calls and letters to my offices: 78% approving of what I'm doing, 22% disapproving.

I never thought there would be such a response, but it's obvious that the American people are thirsting for a solution in Iraq. The American people are ahead of Congress in recognizing that we must give the Iraqis incentive to step up and seize their own destiny -- sooner rather than later -- so that our young men and women in uniform will not continue paying such a heavy price for an indefinite period. I hope that the president will put aside partisan rancor and call both sides to the White House to seek a resolution.
Here's an excerpt from a speech Sen. Obama gave earlier this week at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Moving Forward in Iraq:
In the end, Iraq is not about one person's legacy, a political campaign, or rigid adherence to an ideology.

What is happening in Iraq is about the security of the United States. It is about our men and women in uniform. It is about the future of the Middle East. It is about the world in which our children will live.

Responsible voices from all parts of the political spectrum are coming forth to say this in increasing numbers.

Colin Powell had the courage to call his presentation to the United Nations on Iraq a "blot" on his distinguished record. And recently John Edwards said he made a mistake in voting to go to war in Iraq, and accepted responsibility for this decision.

It is no coincidence that both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Powell no longer serve the government in Washington. Those of us in Washington are falling behind the debate that is taking place across America on Iraq. We are failing to provide leadership on this issue.

Iraq was a major issue in last year's election.

But that election is now over.

We need to stop the campaign.

The President could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people "Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things I would have done differently. But now that we're here, I am willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out."

Nearly four decades ago, John F. Kennedy took responsibility for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He admitted that mistakes had been made. He didn't spend a good deal of time publicly blaming the previous Administration, or the other party, or his critics. And through these decisive actions, he earned the respect of the American people and the world - respect that allowed his diplomacy to be trusted a few years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Americans everywhere are crying out for this kind of leadership today. They want to find pragmatic solutions to the difficult and complicated situation in Iraq. They want to move forward on of the greatest foreign policy challenges that this nation has faced in a generation. And they want to get it right for every American son and daughter who's been willing to put their lives on the line to defend the country they love. It's time for us in Washington to offer the rest of the country this leadership. Thank you.
In essence what these two men are saying is that true leadership in not being stubborn and "staying the course" of a failed policy. True leadership is admitting your mistake and bringing the country together to find a solution. If that was to happen it would be something to give thanks for.

An editorial from Pinkdome, Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
News moves fast these days. It seems like ages ago that we watched in disbelief as one of America's most treasured cities drowned before our eyes. We listened to a panic stricken poor population abandonded by our own government cry for help. We opened our hearts and our homes to people left homeless. Then we got mad. We got mad out of shame. We were supposed to believe our government could take care of us when we couldn't take care of ourselves. The shock and scale that showed even our government was overwhelmed even frightened us a little.

So here we are. We've moved on. We're getting ready for the holidays. We're focused on so much news about a failed presidency and a growing national discontent with the war in Iraq that we don't think about New Orleans or Biloxi or the dozens of other towns that have been wiped off the map. There is an editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that says they feel like they are being treated as if they wore their skirt too short and invited trouble. As reasonable people, we know that rarely, if ever, do we really invite trouble.

Without a doubt, New Orleans and Louisiana are rife with corruption and incompetency. At the same time, we also know that it is an entire region of the poor, the barely employed and a culture that is so rich with heritage many have never ventured further than a few miles from where they were born. Now, those people are spread across the country. The Statesman mentioned briefly the culture shock of moving from a vibrant urban life to exile in the suburbs of Austin. (A fate I wouldn't wish on any of you) While we don't know if people will ever be able to return to their homes, we know as a nation we must try our best to help rebuild their lives. This is not a partisan issue, but it will be a political issue. After all, someone will have to speak up and tell us we're going to have to pay for this. It isn't fair, but it is what is right. Morally, we have an obligation to help our fellow citizens in times of great distress. Through charity, through compassion, through faith and yes...through the government.

As we approach a season of giving thanks, I'm thinking a lot about the people of the Gulf. A place we know well. Our backyard, our playground and for some of us, our home. Let's work together to make sure our government doesn't ignore their promises to rebuild. Let's let our leaders know we expect nothing less. There's a saying in Texas, "Cowboy up," and it's what we expect. After all, but for the Grace of God go I. We hope that each of us will remember to remind our elected officials that we want the Gulf back and we want them to make it happen. In the chaos of the season, put your Congressmen on your Christmas Card lists and put the people of the Gulf scattered across the country in your thoughts and prayers.


...Continue Reading!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

With The Passage Of Propostion 1, Rail Takes Over

With state voters, not Williamson County voters, approving Proposition 1, aka Rep. Krusee's give away to the rail corpporations, we now move to bringing rail to Central Texas. This week the Williamson County Commissioners Court appointed Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman to the Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District Board of Directors. As I pionted our on Sunday, Mike Krusee Switches His Agenda To Rail, Rep. Krusee has shifted his focus and therfore the Commissioners Court will follow.


...Continue Reading!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What Does This Inadequate Ruling Mean

The short answer is that nothing has changed. The long answer, in my non-judicial opinion, is that it means the way Texas uses a property tax to fund schools is unconstitutional. It looks like Gov. Perry got what he wanted from his appointed judges. Property taxes have to be lowered, school funding is adequate and I believe this leaves "Robin Hood" intact. That means Perry can continue on his "revenue neutral" campaign and doesn't have to add any new money to public schools. From what I've seen so far I think there is one word in the majority opinion that Democrats and those who think the funding in our schools is inadequate and that word is "ADEQUATE". Like this comment to the post over at BOR on the ruling:
Here's a snippet of Chris Bell's statement:

"Rick Perry now has a choice. He can either hide behind black robes on the Supreme Court or his hand-picked campaign donors on the tax commission, or he can show real leadership and fight to give our public schools the resources they need to thrive."

Agreed. Again, while the court said that we're constitutionally OK on the adequacy of education, it's important to note that "adequate" means that 55% of students pass the TAKS test. If a student got a 55 on a test, we'd give them a failing grade.

Why, then, shouldn't we expect the same from the state?
Republicans are for adequate education funding! That would look good on a billboard.


...Continue Reading!

The Texas Tax reform Commission (TTRC) Has A Tough Challenge Ahead, It Seems

Everyone seems to agree that changing the tax structure in Texas will be a tough challenge. I think it's a bunch of people trying to set very low expectations so that no matter what they come up with it will look like a victory. Below I will list several of the Texas media articles on the first Meeting of the TTRC. The governor laid out what he wants the commission to do. You will see that even as some talk of this commission being open minded and thinking outside the box it is already closed off to ONE thing. It's interesting to that even though an income tax is off the table they keep talking about it. You'll see a governor calling for a new legislature if an income tax is what is needed. This commission of diverse business leaders and political donors is going to take on the tough challenge of raising taxes on business that will pass those costs onto you:
Since different taxes affect businesses differently, [Waco economist Ray]Perryman said even if a tax overhaul is "revenue neutral" — that is, it doesn't raise overall tax revenue — some businesses will pay more and others will pay less.

Ultimately, he added, 90 percent to 95 percent of business taxes are passed on to individuals, but the initial impact on businesses will be a point of considerable debate.
So you see it's a tough chore or as Sen. Shapleigh said:
"Where is the mother working two jobs to provide for her family? Who represents the family that is trying to pay one of the highest property taxes and the third-highest sales tax rate in the country?" asked Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.

Mr. Shapleigh predicted the commission would resort to the same approach that was popular among legislative leaders, particularly in the House: heavy on consumer taxes that would raise the overall tax burden for all but the wealthiest Texans, according to state research.
It's a tough job but I'm sure a group of diverse business leaders is up to the task.

Here's what the governor set the commission's charge to be yesterday, Tax reform panel told task is difficult:
At its first meeting Monday, the governor told the commission to focus on lowering school property taxes, ensuring greater tax fairness and providing a long-term, reliable source of funding for public education.
Democratic candidate for governor Chris Bell is quoted in several of these articles calling the commission "cronyism run amok":
In a related development, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell of Houston criticized the commission as "cronyism run amok" because it is loaded with political contributors who individually or through associates have given Perry $1.4 million over the past five years.
Or put another way, Tax panel gathers for first meeting, brush up on challenges ahead:
A select group of state business leaders got a crash course Monday on the intricacies of state tax policy.
In this one Mr. Sharp tries to lay out his "tax cred" as being a fighter for the middle class because he won't even discuss an income tax, Panel begins work of reworking Texas' tax system:
"An income tax ought to be labeled what it is: a tax on the middle class, the one group of people that doesn't have anybody in this room representing them," Sharp said.
Now I don't know what John Sharp is talking about but the study I've looked at, The Best Choice for a Prosperous Texas, by the Center For Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) states that the bottom 60% of earners would have their overall taxes lowered as a result and only the upper 60% of earners would have there overall taxes raised, although only by a tiny percentage. So I wish he would point us to some kind of study or somehow back up his claim with facts.

Here are the two articles that point to the fact that even though we're not going to discuss an income tax, we are still open minded and thinking outside the box:

From News 8, Commission begins work to lower property taxes:
"We're looking particularly at those six states that don't have income taxes. We're looking at things Texas considered years ago but discarded to see if there is something there we can use, and basically thinking out of the box," Sharp said.
From the DMN, Panel on education, taxes is all business. I love how Mr. Sharp contradicts himself in this one:
"We are open to everything except an income tax," the former state comptroller said, adding that even expansion of gambling in Texas, which failed to pass the Legislature, will be on the table.

...

He also insisted the commission will have an open mind and try to be fair to consumers and businesses alike.
And last but not least Gov. Perry's folly quote, Perry-appointed tax reform panel begins work:
"The idea that the Texas Legislature in the makeup that it is today is going to pass a personal income tax is folly,’’ Perry said.
Is that a threat or a dare?


...Continue Reading!

Texas Supreme Court Rules, Deadline June 1, 2006

Via Quorum Report (Click on Daily Buzz):
JUDGMENT MODIFIED, AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED, opinion by Justice Hecht:


In this case challenging the Texas school finance law, the trial court held that the state system violated the constitutional section prohibiting a state property tax and that it violated constitutional requirements that the Legislature provide for adequate and suitable school financing. The trial court also held that the Legislature’s provision for school maintenance and operations did not violate the constitutional "efficiency" requirement, but that school facilities financing did.


The Supreme Court HOLDS that local ad valorem taxes capped at $1.50 pr $100 valuation constitute a state property tax prohibited by constitution article VIII, section 1-e, but that public school financing does not yet violate the "general diffusion of knowledge" mandate under any of the three article VII, section 1 requirements. The Court extends the trial court’s injunction against further financing Texas public schools to June 1.
Link to Supreme Court Opinions/Orders.



...Continue Reading!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Did You See Congressman Murtha On Meet The Press Yesterday?

If not go check it out at Crooks and Liars. If you don't have time for that Arianna Huffington has a pretty good wrap-up here, Russert Watch: Murtha Interruptus:
He also hit Tim's last question out of the park:
RUSSERT: In hindsight, do you now believe your vote for the war in Iraq in 2002 was a mistake?

MURTHA: Obviously, it was a mistake.
Words don't quite capture it. You should have seen his face. No doubt, no hesitation: "Obviously, it was a mistake." Impressive.
I hope Tim was able to read between the lines.


...Continue Reading!

Barbara Ann Radnofsky Gets Mentioned In The Statesman

As Pink Dome points out in this post, About Damn Time, Democratic Candidate for Senate from Texas Barbara Ann Radnofsky finally got mentioned in the media:
That Barbara Radnofsky got a little media attention from someone other than a blogger. The Statesman has a small piece on her today. Of course, she's characterized as a 'unkown challenger with no hope.
The only thing I would add to that is that, although, her name is the first thing written in the article her name didn't appear, at least in the print edition, in neither the main headline, "Hutchison rival eager for debate" nor the sub-headline, "Challenger accuses senator of fluffiness; incumbent's campaign calls jab immature". Rival, challenger, but never Radnofsky. Once again if the Statesman was such a paragon of liberalism wouldn't they put Barbara Ann Radnofsky's name in the large type?



...Continue Reading!

The Texas Tax Reform Commission...

...I think they should have called it the You-Scratch-My-Back-I'll-Scratch-Yours Tax Reform Commission. I've always thought they should put at least one person on these types of commissions that has to actually scrape by to make ends meet. This is a reaction to what was in this article that was in the Houston Chronicle over the weekend, Donors fill tax reform commission - be sure and check out the list of donor's down the right side. The article starts by calling it a bipartisan commission, which I think is highly debatable. Is there anyone on this commission that would admit to being liberal or progressive? I'm supposed to believe it's a bipartisan commission because some on the commission gave to John Sharp and Tony Sanchez in 2002. In case anyone has forgotten Tony Sanchez was the multi-millionaire businessman Bush supporter the Democrats ran for governor last time around. I'm sure the Republicans are will be laughing about that one for quite some time to come. And John Sharp, well he plays well with Republicans, so the bipartisan moniker I don't quite agree with. If bipartisan means a choice between conservative or moderate, than well I guess this commission is bipartisan. As for diversity on the commission Mr. Sharp says the commission has it, at least in one respect:
Sharp said previous tax-study commissions have included political donors. He said this panel represents a diverse collection of businesses, some with competing interests in tax policy. Different taxes affect different kinds of businesses differently.
Senator Shapleigh what do you think about all of this:
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said the governor's removal of a personal income tax from consideration means that the panel ultimately will recommend a trade-off for property-tax cuts that will increase net taxes for all but the wealthiest Texans.

He predicted a business income tax, which would hit small and family businesses the hardest, a higher sales tax and additional consumption taxes.
If you think this commission is going to setup a fair and equitable tax structure in this state well, that would probably take a commission with some regular 'ol taxpayers on it orb a diverse panel of Texans.


...Continue Reading!

Join Williamson County Democrats And Chairman Soechting on December 8th

There will be no Executive Committee (EC) meeting in December. Instead, please come celebrate the Holiday Season with The Williamson County Democratic Party at Mesa Rosa Restaurant, 15515 RR 620, Austin, 78717.

The cost is $15 per person to chow down on a delicious, complete fajita dinner and to chew the fat with other Democrats.

Our special guest that evening will be Charles Soechting, Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. So see you Thursday, December 8th from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm as WCDP spreads some Holiday cheer!

Our Regular EC Meeting Resumes on January 12th, 2006 at the Precinct 2 Court located in the Williamson County Annex at 350 Discovery Blvd., Cedar Park, TX 78613 on the second floor.

Contact:
Chair
Jimmy Rocha
jimmy.rocha at sbcglobal.net

Secretary
Marta Hurst
Wayfar1 at swbell.net

Call (512)-671-VOTE (8683) for information.




...Continue Reading!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mike Krusee Switches His Agenda To Rail

Looks like the biggest thing to come out of yesterday's SH 130 Corridor Summit was Rep. Mike Krusee's call for "..a 2006 election on new commuter train lines and downtown streetcars." When I see things like this I can't help but have questions. First and foremost of which are, what's the hurry? Why the sudden change in direction from Rep. Krusee?
Krusee has been known throughout his career for supporting new roads, particularly ones with tolls, but in the past two years he has become a vocal supporter of rail transit.
Don't worry it doesn't take long to find out what's really going on:
"I don't want to wait two more years," he said. "If you build a system of over 100 miles, it's going to be expensive. But it's not going to be as expensive as 130, and it will do as much, if not more, for economic develop- ment."
Ah yes, good 'ol Ecodevo as they say. This whole "summit" was apparently about what is going to happen to the land all around SH 130 and who will benefit from what happens to that land, with actual transportation as an afterthought. Some are worried that the land won't be used for what it's intended, increasing the tax base:
Dozens of cities, counties and utility providers lie in the road's path. All need to work together, the roughly three dozen speakers and panelists concurred, to get ready for the boom 130 will bring.

Several speakers bemoaned the lack of development controls along the toll road, the vast majority of which is outside the limits of any city.

In such areas, no one has the ability to set aside land for office buildings or industrial plants, which generate more tax revenue than the ubiquitous subdivisions now multiplying along the toll road.

Some said the Legislature should give counties land-use powers that cities now have. Others said the state should create a new agency that can manage and coordinate growth in hot zones along 130.

Developer Sandy Rae warned that allowing the market to run rampant along the highway could create a future of used-car lots and cinder block facades.

"If we don't have patience," Rae warned, "we will not be happy 20 years from now."
Rail has it's place and is a great alternative and needed. But this is just like toll roads which aren't inherently bad. It's how they are implemented that makes them good or bad. And toll roads in this area have been implemented very badly. If we don't get any better oversight or accountability over the rail plan it will once again be an idea that could have turned out good and instead is bad because of bad implementation.



...Continue Reading!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday Stories

Ex-justice mulls run for governor:
Llano lawyer Bob Gammage, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, says he might enter what he calls a sleepy race for the Democratic gubernatorial nod in 2006.

"My closest and best friends have asked me if I've completely lost my mind," Gammage said Friday.

Gammage, 67, a mediation attorney whose consideration surfaced this week on blogs, including the Democrat-oriented Burnt Orange Report, said he's weighing whether he can raise enough money to run and whether his candidacy would draw grass-roots support.

"If I can bring all the pieces together, we're going to do it," said Gammage, who supported the 2004 presidential campaign of Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democrat. "I see a terrible need."
Who wants to see Nyle Maxwell in drag? Round Rock mayor will put his bra on like anyone else: one cup at a time:
Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell will be wearing a dress when he plays Mother Ginger in a Dec. 11 Ballet Austin matinee performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin.

This is the same dude who got his panties in a wad back in September when Saradora's, a Round Rock coffeehouse, packed the house with a cross-dresser show.
The difference between what's going on in Austin/Travis County and Williamson County regarding Texas 130 is discussed in this article, Counties may veer on road to 130. Here's what Rep. Mike Krusee had to say:
State Rep. Mike Krusee, a Republican who represents Williamson County and is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has been active both in Williamson County's discussions and in Envision Central Texas. He said his county will be open to any recommendations that come out of the group.

The key in Williamson County, Krusee said, will be the results of Envision Central Texas' work. Travis County, he said, focuses more on the process, and the vast array of political interests in the city and on the Envision Central Texas board means that both entities move more slowly.

"It's so much easier to do things in Williamson County," Krusee said. Austin-area leaders "are not just sitting on their hands. There are just a lot more cats to herd in Travis than there are in Williamson."
And Travis County is not run by one party and therefore they can't just ram stuff through. They have accountability, we don't.


...Continue Reading!

More Lawsuits In Williamson County

The problems in Williamson County are really starting to pile up. It's really starting to get to a point where we must start asking what in the world in going on! Lawsuit after lawsuit and just flat out lack of leadership of any kind when it comes to morality. I made reference to the problems earlier in the week - which included a sexual harassment lawsuit - by using a take off on a soap opera title, As Williamson County Turns, to kind of show how silly this has become. It's not silly anymore. Now it's really shining a bad light on our County. Here's the latest, Ex-deputy constable sues Williamson County, colleagues, and it's not good.


...Continue Reading!

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Democratic Blog In Bell County

Go check it out and give a welcome to Bell County Watch. Here is the opening statement:
Bell County, TX, is crucial to the Democratic Party. As citizens watch Republican Tom Delay's indictment, listen to Rep. John Murtha-D call for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and sit in disbelief waiting for the Texas Supreme Court to solve school funding issues, Democratic Texans must band together and fight for new candidates. Let's start here. Please post to the site with your opinions, knowledge, and advice for the Democratic Party.
Sounds like a plan to me. It's always good to have another voice out there on our side. Go check it out and help me in welcoming our new neighbor to the north in the blogosphere.



...Continue Reading!

My Take On Murtha And Carter

When I saw that Congressman Carter directed us to look at history, I did just that. The first part of history we need to know about are these two things from this article, Democratic hawk called chicken on Iraq:
In his 37 years in the military, John Murtha won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with a Combat "V" and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

[AND]

Carter, Hastert, Blunt and Hayworth have no military service record.
Looking at that, who do you think has a better idea of what is really going on in Iraq and with the military? A man who was a soldier in both Korea and Vietnam or a man who was never in battle? The other part of history is that this has all been done before and ended very badly, Iraq, 1917:
They came as liberators but were met by fierce resistance outside Baghdad. Humiliating treatment of prisoners and heavy-handed action in Najaf and Fallujah further alienated the local population. A planned handover of power proved unworkable. Britain's 1917 occupation of Iraq holds uncanny parallels with today - and if we want to know what will happen there next, we need only turn to our history books...
History, yes Congressman history! "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana.



...Continue Reading!

Latest Tale Of Republicans "Eating Their Own"

Pat Haggerty is being targeted, big time, by his own party. He was one of the 14 Republicans that did the right thing and voted for the Hochberg Amendment in July to finally stop the Republican sham of school finance/property tax reform this summer.

But the Fasc..er..I mean business leaders in El Paso are not happy with Rep. Haggerty, EP's big GOP donors back GOP challenger to unseat Haggerty. Why you ask? Here's why:
Now they're rallying behind Haggerty's primary election opponent, Lorraine O'Donnell, because they said the area needs someone who can "play well" with the state leadership.

...

During the legislative sessions this year, Haggerty voted against his party's signature legislation to overhaul school finance and reduce school property taxes, despite pressure from El Paso's business leaders to go with the flow.
The business leaders think that Haggerty's no vote on party plan cost them funding for a new medical school:
The hope was that a yes vote might engender favor with the leaders, who might then approve funds for Texas Tech University's four-year medical school in El Paso.

The regular and two special legislative sessions ended this year with no education plan, no tax bill and no funding for the medical school.
And his opponent has hired a bunch of hired guns:
O'Donnell is off to a competitive start. She has hired Ted Delisi as her political consultant. The former aide to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn runs an Austin political consulting firm, is the son of Republican Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, and the husband of Deirdre Delisi, Perry's chief of staff.
This story has a few more items in it, House Challenger Backed by Influential Republicans and Perry Supporters in Campaign to Oust Haggerty. It also tells why he's being targeted:
But Haggerty has long been one of the most independent-minded members of the Texas House - and he's done little to try to change that reputation despite threats over the years of primary foes and party cleansing with GOP establishment support. Haggerty's maverick image didn't stop Craddick from backing the El Paso lawmaker's re-election bid last year. With Craddick's support, Haggerty buried former Republican Judge Peter Pecca in the 2004
primary election with more than 70 percent of the vote. Like Perry, Craddick so far hasn't taken a public position on the GOP contest in the state's westernmost city this time around.
So El Paso has a choice, they can have someone who plays well with the Republican leadership and goes with the flow of the business community or they can have an independent minded representative who tries to do what is best for his constituents. Not much of a choice, is it?




...Continue Reading!

Guess What? John Sharp Was Wrong! No Ruling Today!

I feel like a kid, you know, when something was lost and you and your friends were looking for it and somebody would go, "I found it, psyche". No more saying there's going to be a ruling this Friday until there is a ruling this Friday! Pinkdome has the rest, Well, Not This Week.



...Continue Reading!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

U.S. Representative John Carter declares Iraq War a "huge success"

After Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Texas Congressman John Carter and ten other Republicans held a press conference to brand Murtha's amendment a "surrender provision" and attempt to re-link the Iraq War with 9/11 in spite of an utter lack of evidence.

Carter proudly proclaimed the invasion and occupation of Iraq a "huge success".





We have a huge success. In fact, if you weigh this war against any other war in any other period in the history of the United States, we are very, very successful. But you need to study your history and realize that this is a well-run, successful war and will go to a conclusion which will be of great value to the Middle East.


The Iraq War has claimed the lives of more than 2,050 U.S. soldiers; cost more than $200 billion; failed to seal its borders; failed to anticipate the insurgency; failed to avoid a descent into anarchy; and failed to avoid a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism and Iranian influence.

Given Carter's definition of success, it is no wonder Carter feels no need to admit a mistake or demand accountability.

The voters of Williamson County will have an opportunity to demand accountability in their elected representation next November.


...Continue Reading!

John Sharp Says Education Ruling Tomorrow

SCUTTLEBUTT:
Education ruling expected Friday

There's been a lot of speculation about when the Texas Supreme Court might rule on the constitutionality of the school funding system.

Texas Tax Reform Commission Chairman John Sharp, speaking at an economic development summit Wednesday in Nacogdoches, said he had the inside scoop.

"I think they're going to do it on Friday," Sharp told a crowd of East Texans gathered at Stephen F. Austin State University. "I know this because there is a kid who works for me whose sister dates a guy who is the media press representative for the Supreme Court," Sharp said with a chuckle. "I'm serious."

Apparently, the sister and the media representative had previously planned a trip to Hawaii this weekend, but they had to cancel because the media representative said he would "have to be around" to respond to questions.

Sharp said there is probably only one issue before the Supreme Court that warrants cancellation of a Hawaiian vacation.

And the expected ruling on the decision, Sharp said, is that the court will say that the school funding method is unconstitutional because it is essentially a statewide property tax.
Only time will tell.

[UPDATE] There's more on this story from The Daily Sentinel of Nacogdoches, Sharp: School-funding question likely decided Friday, via Pinkdome. The first part is mostly a rehash of what I posted above from the Statesman but after that they start talking about the fact that if they uphold the property tax as an illegal state tax part of the ruling - remember most media never mentions the part of the ruling about schools being underfunded - there will be a deadline set, more than likely September '07 but maybe September '06. Then John Sharp did something strange, he talked about a state income tax:
One possible solution, Sharp said, is a personal income tax.

Perry told Sharp up-front that an income tax is not an option, and Sharp said he agrees, adding he believed that an income tax is the wrong thing to do for the state of Texas, because it unfairly targets the middle class, and every great free-market system is based on a strong middle class.

"So an income tax is off the table," he said. "But only if we succeed."

If the Texas Tax Reform Commission and the Texas Legislature do not reach a viable solution before the anticipated Supreme Court deadline, Sharp said, a state income tax may be the only alternative to keep public schools open.
I don't agree with the fact that this tax would be a burden on the middle class but it looks like he's going to use a state income tax a tool to get everyone on board with some sort of business tax, or else. Face it, if a state income tax was a burden on the middle class the Republicans would have instituted it a long time ago.


...Continue Reading!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

SPEAK OUT

Today, at city hall in Austin, Suzanne Hughes organized a Speak Out rally, to protest the Reverse Robin Hood Budget Bill being considered by the leadership in the U.S. House. Similiar meetings were held across the country by others concerned citizens. MoveOn.org was the organizing tool for these meetings. The proposed budget would make deep cuts to vital social services programs like food stamps and education spending so we can retain the tax cuts for the rich. http://www.cbpp.org/10-21-05bud.htm

TV photographers arrived early and insisted on setting up their cameras for photographic reasons on the northwest side of city hall. These reporters interviewed Suzanne and the few attendees who had showed up on the northwest side of the building to find out why they thought it was important to be there and Speak Out.

Suzanne had set up a Thanksgiving table with plates all around the table but food only on one plate. What a compelling visual to display what this sick budget is about.

However, most of the attendees were in the Plaza on the south side of the building, where we had been told the rally would take place. Suzanne had checked out back but had missed seeing us as several other events were occurring at City Hall today. We were a diverse group of individuals, young, old, black, white and brown, who had come to express their dismay at the heartless budget cuts which have been proposed. I started our rally with a short speech and then invited everybody to express their concerns about this frightening budget.

This is the text of the speech I made to kickoff the SPEAK OUT.

My name is Karen Felthauser.

I am running for St Rep because of the failure of our State

government to address the issue of education for the children of

Texas.

I am the mother of five. Two of my children are currently

attending college. When the state deregulated college tuition, the

tuition at just one of my son’s colleges went up 65% in just one

year.

It is becoming harder and harder to pay for a college education.

and yet we are here today because the current leadership in

Washington proposes to cut the funds for college loans so

the super rich can continue to receive their unneeded massive tax

breaks.

The explanation for this inexplicable proposal???

We are told that the rich will create jobs for other people.

I personally know one rich republican family who has used their

tax breaks to create jobs for safari companies in Africa and

Australia, Scuba diving companies in the Caribbean, and tour

guides in China!

If this money were given to me and other struggling American families we would spend that money to support American professors!!!

It is said “There are only two lasting bequest we can hope to give

our children. One is roots; the other wings.

I am afraid that if we continue to price college out of the reach of

average Americans that soon we will have a nation of children

with roots but no wings.


...Continue Reading!

News Bits

This article on the oft-spoken of as impending court decision on school finance, Lawmakers anxiously await school-finance ruling. There's some good stuff in here but I thought this paragraph was interesting:
That's because just about any fix to the Rubik's Cube that is school finance and tax reform aggravates powerful constituencies. It's not a matter of whether people will get angry -- but who it will be, and how angry they'll become. "They would probably rather be campaigning than staying in Austin and solving this problem," Kronberg said of state lawmakers.
There it is. Why should a representative elected by the people care what the people think? Your lawmakers don't care if the people don't like it, instead they're worried if "powerful constituencies" will get aggravated. I'm assuming that powerful means the people that pay for their campaigns. Harvey Kronberg has some great commentary in the article and in this News 8 commentary as well, No picnic for Republican legislators in GOP primary.

Good article today, Report targets lobbying money, on a Texans for Public Justice report, Three More Former Lawmakers Fall Into the Lobby's Loving Arms:
Three state lawmakers who lost or surrendered their House seats last year have resurfaced as lobbyists, collectively reporting 17 clients that are paying them up to $1.5 million this year.

Medical interests coughed up most of the money reported by the two new lobbyists who made the biggest killing: Jaime Capelo and Arlene Wohlgemuth. This same industry may have been the leading beneficiary of these lobbyists'’ parting legislative session. In 2003 Rep. Capelo co-authored a Wohlgemuth-backed bill that now caps the damages paid by medical interests that commit malpractice.
That revolving door keeps spinning.

CAMPAIGN WATCH (scroll down), on a challenger in CD 10 and the Statesman article on what was talked about at the Barrientos/Elliott press conference yesterday.


...Continue Reading!

As Williamson County Turns

Being caught up in all the pre-election hype I haven't had time to comment on the recent legal problems the county has had. Including the sexual harassment suit recently settled in Williamson County, Details released in harassment complaint. I'm not really sure what to say other than one the things I usually harp on, which is that unaccountable government is bad. The Hill Country News has a pretty extensive rehash of the whole, ahem, affair, County settles sex complaint. When you have a government run by one party, without any accountability, these things are more prone to happen. Now I'm sure what will happen is Mr. Boatright will choose not run in '06 and we'll be left with the next Williamson County supposedly moral values Republican in line as the "shoe-in" for this seat on the court. Unless....there is a Democrat in this county that is willing to step up and fight for accountability on the Commissioners Court. Here's the [MAP, .pdf] of Precinct 2. The Commissioners Court of years past are the ones that have assisted in bringing us all these toll roads. If you don't like them and the way they are being forced on us then run for the Commissioners Court and win, and you can change that. We are here to help.

The county is also being sued by Precinct 1 Constable Gary Griffin, Constable sues Williamson County, and the ongoing mental health saga. And one Mother whose son committed suicide in the Williamson County Jail doesn't see the change being an improvement, Mother wonders about county's mental health services, and she's suing too.

These are very important positions. The Commissioners Court makes decisions that effect our everyday lives much more than those of the Legislature, Congress and statewide office holders. For one party to have a lock on these offices leaves no room for dissent, which is essential for a democracy to flourish.


...Continue Reading!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Rep. Baxter Leaves To Make Big Bucks And Sticks Tax-Payers With The Tab

I just finished watching a press conference with Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and the Chair of the Travis County Democratic Party Chris Elliott. If you're not aware ex-House member Todd Baxter resigned officially on Nov. 1 and quickly took a new job as a top cable industry lobbyist. The press conference dealt with the issues this raises. The cost to Travis County ($250,000+), the hypocrisy of how this is being handled vs. how Rep. Moreno's seat was handled after his death. The politics of it all, Ben Bentzin as a hand picked successor. The revolving door actions of ex-Rep. Baxter resigning his seat and not serving out his term, turning his back on his constituents, and leaving to be a high-paid lobbyist. And most importantly they made the point that the liberal media (my words) is paying very little attention to these issues.


...Continue Reading!

A RALLYING CRY FOR THE APPLE CORPS: BLOCK WALK BLITZ NOV 19!

Come out and help Karen Felthauser and meet Democrats in Williamson County! Here is an invitation from Karen:
We are planning a Block Walk Blitz on Sat. Nov 19 to get them.

We plan on walking precinct 146 [MAP in .pdf] in NW Austin. This precinct had 1,258 votes for Kerry and was therefore only 6.87% away from turning Democratic. That is the most voters for any precinct that is within 10% of changing over.

Sadly, we do not currently have a chair in this precinct. Our plan is to get a block walk list of Democratic Primary voters and knock on their doors garnering signatures and searching out a new precinct chair. When I have used the Dem primary voters list to collect signatures I have not had a single person turn me down and I have met a lot of great Democrat’s. This should not be hard. (I collected 10 signatures in one hour using this list. With any luck, at this rate, we could get the 300 signatures in 3 hours with only 10 volunteers.) Please join us.

We will meet in the morning at 9:00 AM at the McDonald'’s on 183 by the Alamo Draft House [MAP]. There we will get a short training, maps and walk lists.

Then we will gather at Applebee'’s at 2PM to debrief and to celebrate the efforts of the Apple Corps. Should be fun. [MAP]

Let me know if you can make it so we can plan for the correct number of block walk teams.

Karen Felthauser
jfelthauser@austin.rr.com
512-218-4943
Come out and join Karen in getting these signatures. It will save $750, which can instead be put to use in another capacity to assist in getting Karen elected to HD 52. Also, I highlighted the fact that we have no precinct chair in the precinct. If you live in 146 and are a Democrat you are not alone by a longshot. Please join us and help us connect with Democrats.


...Continue Reading!

Monday, November 14, 2005

John Sharp Thinks The Legislature Needs A Deadline!?

Yeah, I'm serious, he really said that. On the record none the less. Sharp prepares to tackle school funding issue. Here's the first paragraph:
With a Texas Supreme Court ruling on education finance expected any day, former comptroller John Sharp said Monday that a court-ordered deadline is needed to get legislators to act to save Texas schools.
I'm not sure if he wasn't paying attention or not over the last year or so but we were told again, and again, and again that there was an October 1st 2005 deadline to get a school finance deal done, and if I remember correctly we didn't get a deal by then. Check out the next paragraph:
A deadline to fix the broken system could be the only way to prompt action from bickering lawmakers who might otherwise be blamed by voters for allowing schools to shut down, Sharp said during an interview with The Associated Press. He is overseeing a task force charged with restructuring the Texas tax code to pay for schools. Their first meeting will be next Monday in Austin.
Is this some sort of Dean Wormer-esque "double secret deadline"? Does he mean that this time the Perry appointed judges will actually shut down the schools if THIS deadline isn't met? Not to overdue the movie references but is this Groundhog Day or what? I sure hope they come up with something better to fix our tax structure than this the next time the Texas Tax Reform Commission (TTRC) meets.


...Continue Reading!

Rep. Krusee Loses On His Bread And Butter Issue

There has been quite a bit of talk this past week about the implications of the Williamson County results from last Tuesday as a, sort of, referendum on toll roads and their biggest proponent in Williamson County, Rep. Mike Krusee. Here's a rundown: My comments, OffTheKuff, Sal Costello and Toll Road News. They all refer to the fact that:
However the vote is a political blow to tolling since it suggests a lack of public confidence in the way tolling is being handled in the state.
I also thought this Statesman "Under The Dome" sections reasoning for why the two propositions that failed didn't pass was rather humorous:
Did wording doom amendment?

On the surface, there seemed to be no connection between the two constitutional amendments that Texas voters rejected this week.

Proposition 5 dealt with interest rates. Proposition 9 was about the length of terms for members of regional mobility authorities.

But a close reading of the ballot reveals a common thread that may help explain why voters thumbed their noses at these -- and only these -- measures.

Proposition 5 was described to voters as "allowing the Legislature" to define rates of interest for commercial loans, while Proposition 9 was about "authorizing the Legislature" to change the length of the terms.

Giving new power to legislators? In a year when they met all summer long and got nothing done?

Not a risk, it seems, that most voters wanted to take.
That shows the current lack of confidence the people of Texas have with the current legislative (mis)leadership in this state. Rep. Krusee takes a hit because his own constituents don't trust him on toll roads. We haven't even begun to take him to task for completely divorcing himself from the issue of education. I guess since he's gotten in bed with the voucher crowd there's no longer any reason for him to worry about public education.


...Continue Reading!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Open House for future House Rep

Voters in Round Rock and from as far away as Bell County came to meet and share some relaxed moments with Mary Beth Harrell, candidate for U.S. Congress, District 31, on Saturday at an Open House hosted for her by Vietnam vet, Mike Barton. Barton this week unveiled the "Veterans for Harrell" website, a bipartisan group of veterans who support Harrell because of her sense of integrity, accountability, and faith in America's future.

Harrell (pictured above, center) once again proved how genuinely comfortable she is meeting with voters and listening to their personal views on a variety of issues. The Open House was particularly appealing because it didn't feature political stump speeches or orchestrated photo-ops. Instead, Harrell mingled easily among those in attendance, talking with each visitor one on one and in small groups.

All agreed that the Open House was a great success and that there will surely be more down the road along the campaign trail.


...Continue Reading!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Statesman Article On Sen. John Cornyn's Ties To Abramoff/Scanlon/Reed

In e-mails, consultant claims link to Cornyn, this seems to be the gist of it:
In the Nov. 30, 2001, e-mail, Reed told Abramoff that 50 pastors led by Ed Young, of Second Baptist Church in Houston, would meet with Cornyn to urge him to shut down the Alabama-Coushatta tribe's casino near Livingston. He said Young would back up the request in writing.

"We have also choreographed Cornyn's response. The AG will state that the law is clear, talk about how much he wants to avoid repetition of El Paso (where the Tigua casino was) and pledge to take swift action to enforce the law," Reed wrote. "He will also personally hand Ed Young a letter that commits him to take action in Livingston."

Cornyn, now a Republican U.S. senator, had filed a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down the casino operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso, saying it violated the state's limited gambling laws. In 2002, federal courts shuttered the Tiguas' casino and Cornyn used that ruling to shut down the Alabama-Coushattas' casino.

Cornyn, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, has denied knowing Abramoff. He also has said he was unaware of Reed's work with Abramoff.
You can read some of them here, A glance of e-mails written by Ralph Reed concerning John Cornyn




...Continue Reading!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Open House For Mary Beth Harrell In Round Rock

Come Meet Mary Beth Harrell, candidate
for U.S. Congress, District 31



Tomorrow, Saturday, November 12th from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Mary Beth Harrell, candidate for U.S. Congress, District 31, will be speaking at an Open House hosted for her at the home of Mr. Mike Barton, 3707 Cheyenne Street, Round Rock. [MAP]

Mike Barton is a proud Vietnam veteran and patriotic Texan spearheading the group, "Veterans for Harrell" and their website Veterans for Harrell. Barton, a Republican, supports the Democratic candidate for Congress, Harrell, because he believes we must "elect leaders who understand our needs and who have the courage and integrity to defend them. Mary Beth Harrell is such a leader."

You'll want to be there to join the growing bipartisan support for Mary Beth Harrell and to renew your hope in having Integrity, Accountability, and Faith in America's Future return to Congress. So bring a lawn chair and enjoy some refreshments as we continue preparing for victory in '06!


...Continue Reading!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Texas Right-Wing Republicans Start Targeting The Moderates

The 65% Rule, or as I like to call it "Ruse" is just that: A scam. When I initially wrote about the 65% Rule back in August the post finished talking about what the strategy of the right-wing voucher wackos will be. They will not target Democrats, already having the majority they will target their own moderate/independent thinking party members that don't follow like sheep. Or robots as these two links show, Pink Dome and Greg's Opinion. As Greg implies at the end of his post, maybe these moderate R's should be gently offered a home with the Democratic Party. I say maybe even in the New Mainstream.

But to be sure this is a strategy by the far right - "Wing-nuts" - of the Republican Party to make sure that all the Republicans in the legislature next session are on board with vouchers.

Sherry Neeley is out West telling everyone that the 65% Rule is a go for next school year,Commissioner: 65 percent rule to be ready by summer. Even though many are still not on board, 65 percent rule sparks concern among MISD employees. They will go with the NCES definition of direct classroom instruction:
According to the order, "Texas public schools will be required to spend an increasingly greater share of funds on direct classroom instruction as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) until the goal of 65 percent is reached." The NCES has defined direct classroom instruction as "instructional expenditures for activities directly associated with the interaction between teachers and students" including teacher salaries and benefits, textbooks, and supplies, according to its Web site.
And here is the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) take on the 65-percent rule


...Continue Reading!

Veterans For Harrell, Kick-Off Tomorrow

VETERANS FOR HARRELL KICK-OFF THEIR WEBSITE ON VETERAN'S DAY, NOVEMBER 11TH



(KILLEEN) - Congressional Candidate Mary Beth Harrell notes that "Veterans Day is a family affair in our home." Her oldest son is a soldier serving on active duty and due to deploy with the 4th Infantry Division to Iraq before Christmas. Her youngest son is also serving on active duty, and Harrell's husband is a retired Army warrant officer.

Harrell states, "I know the sacrifices that our young men and women make everyday to protect our freedom and preserve our way of life. We must make sure that their needs - the needs of our vets - are not forgotten in Washington."

Michael Barton is a proud veteran and patriotic Texan spearheading the group, "Veterans for Harrell" and their website. He is calling on all Veterans to join this group, "she is uniquely qualified to stand up against those in Washington who want to cut programs specifically designed to help veterans." Barton noted "we know we can count on Mary Beth to support the armed services and everyone who has ever served in them."

Barton, a Republican, supports Harrell, a Democrat, because he believes we must "elect leaders who understand our needs and who have the courage and integrity to defend them. Mary Beth Harrell is such a leader."


Barton is hosting a Neighborhood Open House for Harrell at his home in Round Rock on November 12, 2005

Harrell and her family will also participate in the Fort Hood/Killeen Veterans Day parade on November 11, 2005.

VETERANS DAY WEEKEND SCHEDULE



November 11, 2005.
Veterans Day Parade
Kick-off at Killeen City Hall, 11:00 a.m.

November 12, 2005
Neighborhood Openhouse, from 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
3707 Cheyenne
Round Rock

A successful attorney practicing exclusively in criminal law, Harrell said her get-tough record in the courtroom and additional work on behalf of taxpayers as a city prosecutor in Nolanville and interim prosecutor in Temple reflect the mainstream values of Central Texas families and small businesses.

In addition to her legal work, Harrell operates the non-profit St. Francis Animal Sanctuary with her husband, a reserve police officer and Vice-Chair of the Bell county Bail Bond Board. The Harrells' recently opened a second shelter, Assisi Animal Refuge, and continue to work in cooperation with the Killeen Chamber of Commerce on a wide range of humane education programs in the area.

For more information, go to www.veteransforharrell.com




...Continue Reading!

This Week In School Finance (TWISF)..."icky Ricky"

Let's begin by remembering the fact that the Supreme Court still hasn't released it's ruling on school finance that was due on October 1st. Their rulings, as I've learned, are usually released on a Friday - this Friday/tomorrow being Veterans Day - I think it's safe to assume the ruling wouldn't be released until next Friday at the earliest. Today from this article, New theory for lack of school ruling in the Statesman we get some new speculation on why the ruling hasn't been released yet:
Paul Burka of Texas Monthly told an insider's conference on the 2006 elections last weekend that Perry has prevailed upon Jefferson to shelve the court's verdict until after party primaries March 7, sparing Perry and legislative candidates (especially incumbents) from having to hem and haw on how to please the court.
When I read that I couldn't help but think of this oldie-but-goodie:
In typically ham-fisted fashion, Gov. Rick Perry has unnecessarily raised questions about the independence of the Texas Supreme Court.

The governor recently told a private meeting of about 30 people from Highland Park and University Park in Dallas that he was confident the Texas Supreme Court would reject any challenge to the state's school finance system.

According to a report in Wednesday's edition of The Dallas Morning News, based on an interview with John Carpenter, president of the Highland Park school board, Perry told the group, "Well, I've talked to my attorney, and I've also appointed five of the justices of the Supreme Court and helped the sixth get elected, so I'm confident that the state is going to win."

...

Anyone is free to predict what a court will do. But Perry's predictions carry weight because he actually appointed three of the court's nine members, Scott Brister, Wallace Jefferson and Michael Schneider; he soon will appoint a replacement for Chief Justice Tom Phillips, who is retiring; and he has strongly pushed the candidacy of Paul Green, who is expected to win a seat on the court in the November election.
Of course everyone in the article thinks that Burka's comments are in now way accurate and are quick to shoot them down:
Houston lawyer David Thompson, representing school districts in the lawsuit, said he doesn't know how the court could sit on such a vital opinion.

"I don't put any stock in that," Thompson said.

Perry's press secretary, Kathy Walt, called the charge "absolutely untrue and irresponsible."

Jefferson said: "There has been no communication from the court, from any representative of this court, from any political organization, lobbyist or agent of the governor's office or employee who has communicated any request to or from me on school finance whatsoever."
Sounds like he hit a nerve. The question is would Gov. Perry do something like this, or use the issue of school finance for his own personal political gain? Well the Star-Telegram thinks "icky Ricky" may be doing just that with his latest teacher pay raise edict:
There's nothing really wrong with Gov. Rick Perry's executive order issued last week to create an incentive pay program for high-performing teachers in economically disadvantaged schools. In fact, of course, it's a good thing to pay good teachers as much as possible.

It's just that Perry's plan, so obviously grandstanding for the sake of his re-election campaign, feels so ... so ... well, icky.

...

If 75 percent of the money goes to teachers in awards of $3,000 each (what lawmakers contemplated, but they had a $100 million program in mind), only about 3 percent of the state's roughly 300,000 teachers would get the cash.

That's not much, but be charitable and call it a pilot program, a start, a down payment ... whatever.

A less-than-charitable description might be "campaign gimmick."
It is just gossip and speculation but if this was the intended purpose is this an effort to force Perry and his judges to bring out the decision before the primaries? Only time will tell



...Continue Reading!

WCDP Executive Committee Meeting, Guest Speaker Mary Beth Harrell

Fellow Democrats,

We are scheduled to meet on Thursday, November 10th at the Williamson County Annex, Justice of the Peace Courtroom, Precinct #2 at 350 Discovery Blvd, in Cedar Park, TX.

6:15 PM Opitional Dinner (Gumbo, trimmings, dessert, and drink) $10.00 donation.
7:15 PM Monthly meeting


Guest Speaker:

Mary Beth Harrell
Candidate for US Congress District #31



Notarizing will be availble to assist with precinct chair filings.

Look forward to seeing you all on Thursday,

Jimmy Rocha
Williamson County Democratic Party
Chair
512-671-8683

P.S. Become a sustainomg member. We are seeking to reach $50,000.00 by November of 2006. We are currently over $6,000.00

www.williamsoncountydemocrats.org





...Continue Reading!
free web counters
Circuit City Coupon