Sunday, July 31, 2005

Record votes on HB 2 you need to know about-

Record votes on HB 2 you need to know about-: "Record votes on HB 2 you need to know about

While important record votes were expected at the end of the legislative session, we found a series of House votes on the education reform legislation to be particularly instructive."

Sales tax holiday begins Friday

Palestine Herald-Press Online Edition: "Texas retailers and back-to-school shoppers are getting ready for one of the state's largest shopping events of the year - the seventh annual sales tax holiday.

The annual sales tax holiday weekend, which begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at midnight Sunday, allows shoppers all over the state to get a break from state and local sales tax and save millions of dollars on back-to-school and work clothes."

Jacksonville Daily Progress: Putting politics before school finance reform

Jacksonville Daily Progress: Putting politics before school finance reform: "A simple rule of scientific experimentation - don't attempt the same action multiple times and expect a different result.

And yet, our state legislators are back in Austin again, watching the same bills and the same ideas continue to die in the quest for school finance reform.

Representatives are in the second special session of the summer, and judging by past experiences, this session will waste more than a million dollars in taxpayers' money so the House and Senate can have a staring contest to decide how to pay for public education - a both blink at the same time.

Bills that have been introduced earlier in the summer - and failed - only cut funding to, but did not eliminate, the state's 'Robin Hood' recapture plan, which takes money from property-tax rich school districts and distributes it to property-poor ones.

While the Legislators argue over how to phrase 'Robin Hood Jr.,' the Texas Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a court case questioning the legality of the entire system. More than 300 districts initiated the suit against the state, claiming the current finance plan cannot provide all Texas children with a 'general diffusion of knowledge.'"

BORDERS: Texas politics getting Kinky in '06 election

BORDERS: Texas politics getting Kinky in '06 election: "Kinky Friedman has reinvented himself a number of times over the past three decades. He came into the public eye as a singer songwriter firmly planted in the second tier of Texas country outlaw music with his band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. In that mode he's penned such dubious classics as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns in the Bed),'' and “They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” He's written a few other songs whose titles are best left out of the newspaper, lest I get a phone call from my mother objecting to the language. Or from somebody else's mother.

Kinky later took up writing mystery novels starring a detective by the name of Kinky Friedman. He's published 17 detective novels, a few of which I have read. It's not literature, but Kinky's books are entertaining and can be devoured in a single sitting if you have enough libations at hand. And, until he embarked on his latest endeavor, Kinky wrote a back-page humor column for Texas Monthly that was always the first piece I turned to when the magazine showed up in my post-office box."

Local reps bring home transportation bacon

Local reps bring home transportation bacon - The Daily Texan - State & Local: "Two Austin congressmen relayed news Friday of millions of dollars worth of transportation-related earmarks they were able to secure for their districts, as part of a massive transportation bill approved by the U.S. House Friday.

Surely, Lamar Smith and Lloyd Doggett, Republican and Democrat respectively, were not alone in their boasting this weekend. The $286.4 billion highway bill, passed after two years of work, holds $24 billion earmarked for local projects. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas lawmakers brought home 220 earmarked projects totaling $669 million for highways and mass transit. TxDOT also estimates Texas motorists will receive a slightly larger rate of return on the gas tax, because of the bill.

Smith and Doggett claim to have brought back almost $20 million in bacon to decrease traffic congestion, improve highways, increase the number of bike and pedestrian trails and create jobs for the Austin area. The construction of a $350 million commuterrail project was also approved in the bill, according to a written statement from Smith. "

Time to listen to educators

The Herald Democrat: "Texas' top three political leaders must be morose. They have failed miserably to pass school finance and tax reform bills, even after four tries and an obscene amount of arm twisting.

That news is only half bad for the rest of us because the system half worked. It's sad our schools are in limbo with no sure budget and property owners bereft of tax relief. However, we can be joyful that we aren't stuck with either house's version of what they called reform.

The bills were dogs, both of them. And they got uglier with each attempt to fix them. HB2 version 200-something and its companion tax 'reform' bill HB3, also in its hundredth or more iteration by the third special session of the Texas Legislature, increasingly became compromises that pleased no one. So they died.

By the end of the second special session, the property tax reduction had gone from dropping the cap to $1 per $100 to lowering it to $1.20-$1.25. With no new money to help fast-growing and poor districts build new schools and repair old ones, the debt service part of local districts' budgets likely would raise property tax rates to their previous levels within a few years."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

New Senate school finance plan looks like old one | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Legislature: "Senate leaders filed a new school finance bill Friday that is very similar to legislation approved by the Senate last month – though it still falls far short of the additional funding that school districts say they need to stay above water.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, offered the proposal as Senate leaders try to revive efforts to overhaul the state's school funding system and lower school property taxes by raising a handful of state taxes.

House members rejected school finance and tax swap bills by substantial margins this week, and senators have remained deadlocked on their school finance proposal since the current special session began a little more than a week ago.

'We are trying to craft a bill that gets the most support from the education community and the Senate,' Ms. Shapiro said."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Session especially welcome for Austin eateries | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Legislature: "Whether they manage to fix school finance or not, lawmakers still have to eat.

So while most groups watching them toil in two special sessions have been frustrated and unhappy with the results, the 48 extra days the Legislature has spent in Austin have been a boon to local restaurants during the usual summer doldrums.

Daryn Alston, general manger of Eat Out In, a service that picks up and delivers restaurant meals, said that when legislators return, 'we get the biggest flux of business.'"

At least the special sessions benefit somebody. | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "Tests confirm that a 42-year-old Fort Worth man has the first human case of West Nile virus in North Texas this year.

Fort Worth health officials said they have identified two mosquito pools that tested positive for the virus: one on Warm Springs Trail near Watauga, the other at the intersection of 28th Street and Grace Avenue on the city's near north side.

They believe the unidentified man may have contracted West Nile in the same area.

Last year, there were a total of 119 human West Nile cases in Texas."


A CAPITOL BLOG: A REAL CHAMPION FOR TEXAS: REP. BOB GRIGGS: "If there ever was a leader that embodied many of those qualities it is Rep. Bob Griggs R-North Richland Hills. This editorial appeared in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The story talks about something most of us who know Bob have known since the end of his first term. His reluctance to continue for a second term. But it was his concern for the school children of Texas that kept him for a second term.

Now because Bob was one of the brave souls who stood up to those who were pushing this 'junk food' of an education plan, to use his words, he has invited a Republican primary opponent (Pat Carlson, party chair of Tarrant County) and has decided not to run. He has reserved the right to change his mind and will make a final decision in September."

The Austin Chronicle: News: Lege Notes

The Austin Chronicle: News: Lege Notes: "New names for vacant seats at the Legislature are coming out of the woodwork like termites. Departing Austin Rep. Terry 'Temper Tantrum' Keel's seat is being sought by Republican Dick Reynolds, former Texas Workers' Compensation Commission chair. Reynolds has formerly represented Richardson, North Dallas, and Garland during two terms in the Lege, but, according to Quorum Report, has been an Austin resident since the 1990s. Other names being floated are Austin attorneys Hugh Brady, Duffy Keever, and former City Council candidate Gregg Knaupe."

Burnt Orange Report - Congress Ups State's Share of Transportation Funds

Burnt Orange Report - Congress Ups State's Share of Transportation Funds: "In an interesting move, Congress today passed a six-year surface transportation bill which will reportedly give the state back at least 92 percent of the money it [we] pay in gasoline taxes. Right now, Texas gets back 88 cents on the dollar."

House Speaker Craddick unsure if deal can be reached - Local News - 07/29/2005 - House Speaker Craddick unsure if deal can be reached: "A week into the second legislative special session on school finance, House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said he has 'no idea at this point' if the Legislature will come out with a deal on school finance this special session.

However, lawmakers continue to work through House Bill 2, an education reform bill, and House Bill 3, property tax relief. This session immediately followed one that ended July 20 when both chambers couldn't agree on the bills.

Craddick said House Bill 2 was a 'really good bill' offering $2.5 billion to schools, teacher raises and more transparency and accountability. 'We ended up not being able to get it passed. We're looking at options to it,' he said.

He declined to elaborate on what those options might be.

Craddick said there is no bipartisan support for the bills and people are 'worn out' from voting on the same thing."

Strayhorn Targets Democratic Money - Strayhorn Targets Democratic Money: "In an effort to match an incumbent governor's election war chest, Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is targeting donors with a history of supporting Democrats.

Of Strayhorn's $7 million campaign account, more than $800,000 has come from some of the Democratic Party's biggest political donors.

Those donors include trial lawyers, according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News.

Some say the strategy is risky for a candidate trying to win Republican primary votes.

Others say it's a necessary step."

Congress Approves $200,000 For Lake Whitney Study

KWTX | Congress Approves $200,000 For Lake Whitney Study: "Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, praised the U.S. House and Senate Friday for approving $200,000 for a study of Lake Whitney as a potential source of drinking water.

The funds are included in the 2006 Department of Interior appropriations bill.

Scientists from Baylor University will head up the study to determine whether the lake could provide drinking water to accommodate growth in North and Central Texas.

Faculty from Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, the University of North Texas and Texas State University-San Marcos will also help in the study."

15 Democrats, including 3 Texans, give support to CAFTA - Local News - 07/29/2005 - 15 Democrats, including 3 Texans, give support to CAFTA: "Three Texas Democratic congressmen from the Rio Grande Valley who crossed party lines to vote for the DR-CAFTA treaty wanted to increase free trade in their districts and improve conditions in Central America, from which they're seeing numerous illegal immigrants, spokesmen said Thursday."

McNeely: Gov. Perry's special sessions backfiring - Editorial & Opinion - 07/29/2005 - McNeely: Gov. 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.

After the Texas House of Representatives turned thumbs down on the governor's education package Tuesday, Perry said there were still 24 days left in the 30-day special legislative session to deal with it.

But perhaps too many legislators in both major political parties have bitten Perry's school finance/tax cut nickel, and figured out at best, it's wooden. They've been home and heard from their constituents, who think they're better off now than with the Perry-Craddick approach of raising taxes on the poor to give the rich a tax cut, while putting very little new money into schools.

Enough Republican House members joined with Democrats to amend the school finance bill that its sponsor, Rep. Kent Grusdendorf, R. Arlington, helped kill it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Burnt Orange Report - Austin Chronicle Hypes Capitol Blogs

Burnt Orange Report - Austin Chronicle Hypes Capitol Blogs: "The Austin Chronicle has a new story in tomorrow's edition about 'The Blog Days of Summer.' Click on the link to read."

Sugar Land celebrates sweetheart deal

Truth Serum: It's easier than torture: "Yesterday on ThinkProgress, we wrote that, after the conference for the energy bill closed, Tom DeLay slipped in “a $1.5 billion giveaway to the oil industry, Halliburton, and Sugar Land, Texas.” Specifically, the provision was written to benefit an consortium located in DeLay’s home district.

In today’s Boston Globe, Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, disagreed:

“We don’t see this as a sweetheart deal for anyone.” Wicker said.

In case you had any doubts, check out this article about the provision, just published by the Houston Business Journal:

Paul Hackett - Honorary Texan

Greg's Opinion - "It's time to put money where mouth is in naming Paul Hackett an Honorary Texan for the remainder of the election cycle. Texas Bloggers, led by Burnt Orange Report, Off the Kuff, PinkDome, and Greg's Opinion (that'd be me) 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."

Rio Grande Valley Politics: SHAFTA

Rio Grande Valley Politics: SHAFTA: "As the Texas Legislature stands at ease for who knows how long, let's keep you posted on what else is happening in the world that affects the Valley.

Congress has approved new trade measures with countries in Central America and the Dominican Republic that could have a devastating effect on our local economy - all thanks to two of our local congressmen, Ruben Hinojosa and Solomon Ortiz who voted in favor of CAFTA."

Honey, Where You Been So Long? � You Treat Me Baby, Like Somebody You Never Seen

Honey, Where You Been So Long? � You Treat Me Baby, Like Somebody You Never Seen: "Not much is known about Gene Campbell, He was most likely a Texas native or at the very least a Texas resident for part of his life as he mentions several Texas areas in his songs. He’s also heavily influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson both lyrically and in his guitar playing, but he also shows off a level of originality to his phrasing and style that other Texas blues guitars lack. This track “Doggone Mean Blues” is just a fantastic Texas blues songs and one of the best examples of the genre.

Gene Campbell - Doggone Mean Blues"

Campbell expresses my feelings about Craddick, Dewhurst, and Perry perfectly.

Burnt Orange Report - The Leadership Stands at Ease

Burnt Orange Report - The Leadership Stands at Ease: "LTG Dewhurst continues to insist he has the votes to pass SB2, but he has now pulled everyone behind a closed-door caucus meeting to make sure. Many people continue to believe he doesn't have the votes -- remember, Speaker Craddick also thought he had the votes, and we all saw what happened Tuesday.

Everyone needs to start working from the center out, and not from the left/right in. Governor Perry can sign HB1 and schools can go on this year as normal. In the meantime, that majority of bipartisan lawmakers that want to get things right and aren't just looking for campaign cover should convince the leadership to step back. Let those willing to come together work out the school finance plan, and tell Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick to stop playing politics with Texas' public schools."

A victory in defeat

A victory in defeat: "The controversial school finance plan and tax-swap measure went up in flames in the Texas House this week, confirming yet again that all politics is local.

Despite Gov. Rick Perry's assurance — one echoed by other state leaders — that a deal was imminent, the school finance and taxing schemes died as a result of local politics. Call this a win for Texas schoolchildren.

The school finance plan went down 79-62, and the tax-swap proposal met a crushing 124-8 defeat. Obviously, the school finance plan pushed by Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick, both Republicans, couldn't muster enough GOP support. Also, few legislators wanted to be on the record supporting a plan that would give Texas the nation's highest sales tax."

Senate will try again on school finance

News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | HEADLINES | Senate will try again on school finance: "On Thursday morning, the Texas Senate will try to save the second special session from going down the drain.

The Senate will convene and try to pass their version of HB 2, the public school finance reform bill that died in the Texas House on Tuesday. That day the House also killed HB 3, the tax bill that actually pays for public schools.

'Everything just sort of swirled down almost into a vortex,' Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said"

Deal for DeLay district added to energy bill, Democrat says

Deal for DeLay district added to energy bill, Democrat says - The Boston Globe - - Washington - News: "A top House Democrat is accusing GOP leaders of slipping a provision into a sprawling energy bill to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a private energy consortium in the suburban Houston hometown of House majority leader Tom DeLay -- a consortium that includes energy giant Halliburton Inc. as one of its most prominent members."

DeLay Critic to Run for Governor in Texas

DeLay Critic to Run for Governor in Texas: "A vocal critic of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced in an e-mail to supporters Thursday that he will challenge Gov. Rick Perry in 2006.

Democrat Chris Bell was elected to the U.S. House in 2002 but lost his seat to Democrat Al Green last year after his district was redrawn.

Bell is best known for accusing DeLay of ethical violations. DeLay, a Republican, was instrumental in the GOP-led Texas congressional redistricting effort that resulted in Bell's defeat.

Although DeLay was admonished by the House, Bell was criticized for exaggerating misconduct allegations against the GOP leader.

Bell has been exploring a campaign for governor for months but has struggled so far to gain firm footing in a state dominated by Republicans. The GOP has held every statewide office since the 1998 elections."

The Moderate Voice - More Madcap Fun From Tom DeLay

The Moderate Voice - More Madcap Fun From Tom DeLay: "Cover your kid's eyes, keep him or her away from TV, don't let your child read a newspaper: Tom DeLay as a questionable role model has struck again:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay quietly slipped into the energy bill a $1.5 billion fund for oil and natural gas drilling research that will benefit an energy consortium based in his home district, a California Democrat said on Wednesday."

Ralph Stow: Looking in all the wrong places for school solutions | News for Dallas, Texas | Collin County Opinion: "Why, you might wonder, after three years of 'high priority' status in both regular and special sessions in the Texas Legislature, do Texas taxpayers still not have new school finance legislation? The answer is quite simple; however, the solution may be more politically elusive and founded in anything but education.

The Legislature is mandated by law to provide money for public education. Any deficits to state funding have historically been covered by local property taxes. Over the last decade, the Legislature has diverted more of its budget to other programs and away from education. This deficit was largely paid for by increasing local property taxes and recapture (Robin Hood).

As many districts across the state reached the mandated $1.50 tax cap, however, local funds have not kept pace with the rising need, and state funding of education has slipped from over 60 percent to near 30 percent.

Simply put, as Texas slides down the slippery slope of becoming a high-tax welfare state and local property taxes are exhausted to pay for education deficits, a legislative battle royal is in full tilt between special interests and lawmakers at the feed trough of escalating taxes and politics."

The Revolt Has Begun: Texans up in arms on school-finance failure | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Editorials: "A bandwagon is rolling that is tailor-made for Texans fed up with the Legislature's bumbling, half-hearted approach to funding public schools.

Call it the 'Throw the Bums Out Express.'

It got its first big results this week with the ugly meltdown of the House's school-finance plan, which Republican leaders couldn't get their confused and beleaguered majority to pass.

Members attributed the defeat to getting 'beaten up back home' by parents and educators demanding enough money to properly educate their kids.

Hallelujah. The message is getting through to the Capitol.

Enough Texans have rightly pegged lawmakers as more intent on handing out a token property tax cut than committed to building strong schools. They have seen through the charade of higher consumer taxes for a marginal, short-term funding gain. They see the broken promise of finding a long-term fix based on restructured business taxes and substantially lower property taxes."


Burnt Orange Report - CHRIS BELL RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR: "The Chris Bell Exploratory Committee has stated that Chris Bell will be running for Governor of the State of Texas on the Democratic ticket.

The formal announcement was made today by email:"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

GOP Unravels in...Texas

MyDD :: Diaries: "The GOP majority in the Texas House of Representatives today fell apart, its party discipline destroyed by the stink of corruption that permeates the Bush era in Texas and across the country.

If Texas had icebergs, this would be the tip of one. I'm not talking about Karl Rove's adulterous behavior.

I'm talking about the stinging defeat suffered by the Texas GOP on the floor of the state House today. GOP leadership, helped to election by illegal corporate contributions, watched helplessly as the Democratic minority and a few frightened Republicans voted down bills that 1) raised taxes on the middle class; 2) Cut taxes for Big Insurance and other special interests involved in the scandal; 3) Stiffed school children and teachers under the guise of education reform.

This is no small matter. It should be pointed out that in the early 1970s, a political scandal called Sharpstown surfaced just ahead of a national political scandal called Watergate. By 1976, Jimmy Carter could carry Texas."

Burnt Orange Report - Chris Bell Announcing within 24 Hours

Burnt Orange Report - Chris Bell Announcing within 24 Hours: "A senior source in the Chris Bell Exploratory Committee has stated that Chris Bell will be making an announcement tomorrow via email about whether or not he will be running for Governor of the State of Texas on the Democratic ticket."

Think Progress » DeLay Still Up To Dirty Tricks

Think Progress » DeLay Still Up To Dirty Tricks: "Tom DeLay thinks the federal treasury is his personal piggy bank. DeLay slipped “a $1.5 billion giveaway to the oil industry, Halliburton, and Sugar Land, Texas” into the energy bill.

But this isn’t a normal case of government pork. DeLay has completely dispensed with the democratic process. From a letter Rep. Henry Waxman just sent Speaker Dennis Hastert:

The provision was inserted into the energy legislation after the conference was closed, so members of the conference committee had no opportunity to consider or reject this measure."

Texas' top 3 regroup on school-finance plan | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "Less than a week into the new special session, with quick completion of a school finance plan looking unlikely, Republican Gov. Rick Perry met with legislative leaders Wednesday to answer a burning question: What next?

The solution seemed to remain a mystery.

Perry held a closed-door meeting with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick to plot the Legislature's course after the House voted down a pair of school funding bills Tuesday, appearing to doom the special session."

School finance bills unravel in House | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Legislature: "House members slapped down Gov. Rick Perry and Republican leaders Tuesday, rejecting twin school finance bills and pushing the current special session to the brink of collapse."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Daily Kos: Stare Decisis?

Daily Kos: Stare Decisis?: "For nonlawyers, stare decisis:

Lat. 'to stand by that which is decided.' The principal that the precedent decisions are to be followed by the courts. To abide or adhere to decided cases. It is a general maxim that when a point has been settled by decision, it forms a precedent which is not afterwards to be departed from. . . Although the doctrine of stare decisis does not prevent reexamining and, if need be, overruling prior decisions, 'It is . . . a fundamental jurisprudential policy that prior applicable precedent usually must be followed even though the case, if considered anew, might be decided differently by the current justices. This policy . . . 'is based on the assumption that certainty, predictability and stability in the law are the major objectives of the legal system; i.e., that parties should be able to regulate their conduct and enter into relationships with reasonable assurance of the governing rules of law.'' (Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Companies (1988) 46 Cal.3d 287, 296.) Accordingly, a party urging overruling a precedent faces a rightly onerous task, the difficulty of which is roughly proportional to a number of factors, including the age of the precedent, the nature and extent of public and private reliance on it, and its consistency or inconsistency with other related rules of law.." Holy Crap! And Holy Crap! And Holy Crap! Holy Crap! And Holy Crap! And Holy Crap!: "'Mr. Speaker, show me voting NO on HB 3' - Chairman Jim Keffer.

Only 8 ayes for HB 3, this one goes down in a blaze even more so than HB 2.

Right now, every jaw in the Capitol has dropped. After some particularly underhanded moves by the leadership, Representative Scott Hochberg passed his own plan for school finance. A collective brick was shit by leadership. 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.

After some scrambling, HB 2 went down in a blaze, final vote 79-62."

Burnt Orange Report - HB 3 Just Failed

Burnt Orange Report - HB 3 Just Failed: "And the House stands adjourned until Thursday at Noon. HB 3 fails with what appeared to be an 8-128 vote. Keffer who was carrying it announced he was voting no.

Rep. Dunnam gave a short speech just before it all died expressing his displeasure at the process and that they had an chance today to make some real progress for the children of Texas but that it was apparent that today these bills were killed so people could go home."

Rio Grande Valley Politics: Another One Bites The Dust

Rio Grande Valley Politics: Another One Bites The Dust: "HB 3 down 124-8. Even the bill's sponsor (Keffer) said to count his vote as no."

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 Just Failed

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 Just Failed: "The Speaker put every amendment onto the bill, without any debate. No one knew what got put on the bill, but because Grusendorf made the motion, no one had time to object. That left every member without a clue as to what was now in the bill, and all the Republicans broke and voted against House Bill 2. Now, the House has planned on voting for House Bill 3."

House rejects school finance measure | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "The Texas House, after rancorous debate and major changes to a multibillion-dollar school funding bill, voted down the measure Tuesday.

Although the move appeared to spell trouble for the special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, another school spending bill remained pending in the Senate.

The 79-62 vote against the Republican-backed House bill came after the House approved a Democrat's plan to provide an additional $3.8 billion over two years to schools, including money for a teacher pay raise and more bilingual education funding."

Taylor County Democratic Club

Way to go guys!!

Search Continues in West Phila. for Missing Mother

KYW Newsradio 1060 - News: "Dozens of concerned family members, friends and neighborhood residents spent Monday evening searching throughout West Philadelphia, looking for any clue to the whereabouts of 24-year-old Latoyia Figueroa. She is five months pregnant and has been missing for a full week.

Police say that Figueroa (left) was last seen last Monday in the area of 59th and Walton.

The young woman has a seven-year-old daughter. Her aunt, Stephanie Stevenson, says Figueroa would never just take off:"

She's not white, and she didn't run away from her wedding--so she's not getting 24/7 cable coverage. The chances of anyone reading this blog knowing anything are slim to none. But the call is going out to the blogosphere to do what the cable networks won't.

Daily Kos: Rove's secret affair

Daily Kos: Rove's secret affair: "Rove exemplifies Republican family values.

As a string of foes from John McCain to Richard Clarke can attest, Karl Rove has never been shy about using personal attacks for political gain. But as the Valerie Plame scandal rages on, the Bush administration's in-house bulldog may be forced to endure a taste of his own medicine [...]

For years, political insiders in the Lone Star State have whispered about Rove's close friendship with lobbyist Karen Johnson, a never-married, forty-something GOP loyalist from Austin, Texas. "

Tax bill may fall short by half-billion, board says - Tax bill may fall short by half-billion, board says: "Unless approved by an unlikely two-thirds vote to put it into immediate effect, a tax bill in the Texas House would fall about a half-billion dollars short of paying for the school property tax cuts it would impose over the next two years, according to a legislative analysis.

The higher sales and other consumer taxes in House Bill 3, scheduled to be debated by the full House today, also would mean a net tax increase for all income groups below $100,000.

Texans with annual incomes of more than $140,853 would see an average net tax cut of 2.57 percent under the tax trade-off, while people earning $13,415 or less would get hit with a 3 percent tax hike, the Legislative Budget Board estimated."

What is the Hochberg Amendment You Ask--Here's the Answer

TCTA posts Updates from the Capitol: "State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) is filing an amendment to HB 2 that represents a significant improvement. We understand that the comprehensive amendment would:

* Raise teacher pay by $4,000 over two years.

* Restore the teacher health care benefits cut in 2003.

* Provide a higher equity standard and increase state funding to cover at least 50 percent of the cost of our children’s education.

* Provide funds for up-to-date textbooks.

* Provide property tax relief to triple the homestead tax exemption to $45,000 and roll back the property tax rate by approximately 17 percent."



PERSONAL NOTE: This last vote has changed things dramatically. A good number of amendments are being temporarily pulled down. Look for Democrats to now support HB 2, as long as the Hochberg amendment stays.

What you see here is the House of Representatives working for the benefit of Texas and not the interest of party.

Burnt Orange Report - Republicans Fail to Shut Down Debate on HB2

Burnt Orange Report - Republicans Fail to Shut Down Debate on HB2: "A motion by Rep. Keel to move to previous question would have entirely shut down debate on HB2, not allowing a single amendment to be presented for the bill. The motion failed 63-80.

This was the sickest, most disgusting move Speaker Craddick and the Republican leadership could imagine."

Burnt Orange Report - Hochberg Amendment Passes!!!

Burnt Orange Report - Knaupe Not to Run

Burnt Orange Report - Knaupe Not to Run: "One of the candidates that has grown on me in his time actually not running for anything, Gregg Knaupe (of City Council Place 3), appears to now be more or less officially out of the running for HD 47, Keel's open seat."

The 21st Century Border The 21st Century Border: "NUEVO LAREDO - Business people here bristle about what they say is 'sensationalistic coverage' of the violent outbreaks in and around their city.

And, they say, it is even affecting some locals, who now constantly check their rear-view mirrors and won't go out after dark, fearing that they might become innocent victims.

'It has created a psychosis here,' said one businessman who, like so most others, asked not to be named."

Remember Tom DeLay

TPMCafe || Politics, Ideas & Lots Of Caffeine: "Remember Tom DeLay. The MSM has been jumping between Roberts and Rove with no mention of DeLay in several weeks. As a matter of fact, I suspect DeLay could be the happiest Republican on the Hill right now, as the press has been adequately distracted by the Roberts/Rove show."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Paying a Premium to Ensure Victory for the Texas GOP

Clean Up Texas Politics | Austin Am. Statesman Editorial: 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.

As reported by this newspaper's Laylan Copelin in Friday's editions, insurers contributed at least $580,000, and possibly much more, of the $1.7 million raised by the business association's political campaign in the 2002 legislative races. The association has tried to keep the names of contributors, and how much each contributed, secret. But Copelin pieced together a large part of the picture from court documents.

If you think this has nothing to do with you, congratulations: You must be one of the few Texans satisfied that your homeowners' insurance premium is reasonably priced, even if it provides far less coverage than it did before 2003." | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "With a new special session under way, Texas lawmakers plan to plunge into the school funding debate this week to move legislation along and perhaps get out of town soon.

That's their intent, anyway.

As past sessions have proved, reaching an agreement in the Legislature on the complex and sweeping question of how to pay for Texas' public schools isn't easy. The $33 billion system educates 4.3 million children.

Both the House and Senate are meeting today, when the Senate may take up the education spending portion of a school finance package. The two chambers in large part are working from the education and tax proposals they crafted in the previous 30-day special session, which ended in failure Wednesday night.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry ordered the next session to begin Thursday.

School finance is one of the most important items the Legislature tackles, said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who presides over the Senate. He said 'whether it takes four weeks or six weeks, the objective is to get it right, and that's what we're dedicated to doing.'"

MTBE liability shield off table in Congress

Kansas City Star | 07/25/2005 | MTBE liability shield off table in Congress: "House and Senate conferees on Sunday abandoned giving makers of the gasoline additive MTBE liability protection against environmental lawsuits.

The Senate negotiators’ action removes the major roadblock to enactment of broad energy legislation. They rejected a House proposal for an $11.4 billion MTBE cleanup fund that House Republicans had hoped would serve as a compromise and still provide the liability shield to the oil industry.

But Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, said “the proposal has not been accepted by the Senate” and that today he would offer another MTBE proposal."

Teacher raise likely, but how much?

The Galveston County Daily News: "“It will provide a pay raise for teachers,” he said, “and it will require school districts to direct at least 65 percent of state dollars toward instruction.”

For Rep. Craig Eiland, though, the raise might not be big enough. Supporters talk about raises of $2,500 a teacher, he said, but all he can say for sure is that teachers will get $500. About $1,000 is money the teachers were already getting to make up for increased insurance costs.

“They’re taking it from the right pocket and putting it in the left,” said Eiland, a Galveston Democrat."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dallas homeless lack shelter, solution | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "Dallas' homeless shelter is overcrowded and filthy and offers few services beyond a spot on a bare tile floor or a cracked outdoor parking lot.

The city, which opened the Day Resource Center 24 hours a day in January after a truck ran into and killed two men sleeping on the sidewalk, has found itself short on money, staff and space to meet the increased demand.

Neighboring business owners call the center a disaster and say people sleep, urinate and throw litter on their properties.

And residents complain of rampant theft, unsanitary conditions and a shortage of caseworkers."

The Texas Whip: Schools PAC to Target Texas Legislators

The Texas Whip: Schools PAC to Target Texas Legislators: "It looks like a group of former PTA leaders and public school adovcates are finally getting annoyed with the status quo (and doing something about it):

Carolyn Boyle and other board members said they hope to raise at least $250,000 from parents and other supporters of public schools who are concerned about lawmakers' support for public education. The political donations will be contributed to Democratic and Republican candidates, they said."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Editorial: Oh, and telecom, too?

Editorial: Oh, and telecom, too?: "Look what issue bumped its way into special session

It should not have come as a surprise to anyone that Gov. Rick Perry added telecom deregulation to the special session called to fix the state's broken school finance system.

Perry said that the highest priority of the 79th Texas Legislature was to pass a school finance bill. Of course, he said the same thing before the 78th Legislature."

Burnt Orange Report - Texas Education Crisis

Burnt Orange Report - Texas Education Crisis: "Gov. Perry is now into his 5th Special Session. Each special session cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 million dollars. Each one of these special sessions have had something to do with public education. So what have Texans have to show for our 8.5 million dollars?

We have a public school system that is near the bottom of the barrel in the United States when it come education. We are ranked 33rd in the country, tied with West Virgina and 48th in the country in SAT scores. On the issue of drop out rates, Texas has the highest.

The administration would love to have you think that things really aren't that bad. They would point you to schools that have done wonderful things in Houston and Dallas. This 'Texas Miracle', however, turned out to be a Texas mirage. Enron-style accounting practices turning out 100% completion rates and cheating on the TAKS test by school districts and students have reached such alarming proportions that out of state companies have been called in to investigate the allegations."

Friday, July 22, 2005

School reform moving faster in new special session - The Daily Texan - Top Stories

School reform moving faster in new special session - The Daily Texan - Top Stories: "School finance reform bills tackling the joint goals of improving public education while lowering property taxes are moving at lightning speed through the Legislature in the second special session of the summer.

Immediately after their first meeting Thursday, lawmakers held unusual meetings at their desks, bypassing the normal committee meeting process to push school finance bills to an advanced stage in the legislative process.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, applauded the rapid progress and said it was a result of all the hard work done in the first special session.

'I think we've got a good foundation to build on,' Dewhurst said. Dewhurst added that the most recent version of the education reform bill was a marked improvement on earlier versions."

Viewpoint: Someone has to pay - The Daily Texan - Opinion

Viewpoint: Someone has to pay - The Daily Texan - Opinion: "Another deadline has come and gone for the Texas Legislature to fix how the state funds its public schools as the special session on school finance ended Wednesday with no resolution. The core issues that divide lawmakers continue to fade into obscurity, engulfed by the politics and bureaucracy that is the Legislature.

This time around, lawmakers were once again able to pass a budget that would keep schools from closing before they open in August, but the accompanying spending plan and tax bill critical to the whole system's overhaul are still unresolved. Gov. Rick Perry sent legislators back to the Capitol Thursday to work things out.

After what has now been four chances in the past two years to somehow reach a funding compromise, it seems like lawmakers and most Texans have lost sight of the issues this whole struggle was about in the first place.

DeLay Gets By With Less Help From Hill Friends

DeLay Gets By With Less Help From Hill Friends: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is getting less help from his colleagues when it comes to paying his legal bills.

The liberal advocacy group Public Citizen, which analyzed DeLay's disclosure reports, said yesterday that just two other House members gave money to the Republican leader's defense fund during the past quarter. Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Paul E. Gillmor (R-Ohio) gave $7,000 to the fund, which raised $42,000 in that quarter." - Editorial & Opinion - 07/22/2005 - McNeely: Will school begin before session ends? - Editorial & Opinion - 07/22/2005 - McNeely: Will school begin before session ends?: "But this is a strange time. The proposals Perry has proposed, and the Texas House and Senate have been discussing, would:

- In the name of education, put very little additional money into schools - barely enough to keep up with inflation. (Too many officeholders fail to take into account that inflation is about three percent a year. That's six percent over the two-year budget period.)

- Deeply undercut the idea of equity. The Texas Supreme Court years ago interpreted the Texas Constitution to require equal spending on Texas students, regardless of their financial circumstances or where they live.

- Downsize local property taxes, by varying amounts. But even according to the Senate's milder proposal, that loss of funds to the state would be partially offset by raising the state's sales tax by half a cent - a tax that is generally considered to most punish the poor.

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."

Off the Kuff: Once again: Run every race

Off the Kuff: Once again: Run every race: "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.

Another odd argument I've heard against fielding candidates even in solid GOP territory is that by doing so you'll just drive up Republican turnout in those races. See the first comment here for an example of that genre. Well, hell, by that logic we shouldn't run in any statewide races. I sure hope no one's advocating that. Maybe some of those Republicans who wouldn't bother to vote in noncompetitive races sit them out because they're not really all that committed to the GOP. Maybe some of them, if presented with an alternative, might consider taking that alternative. For certain, we're not going to convince too many people to vote for us if we don't have the decency to ask them to do so."

Clean Up Texas Politics | Austin American Statesman: Insurers Were TAB's Biggest Donors

Clean Up Texas Politics | Austin American Statesman: Insurers Were TAB's Biggest Donors: "The Texas Association of Business secretly financed its 2002 election effort largely with money from an insurance industry that was trying to fight tougher regulations at the Capitol, the Austin American-Statesman has determined after studying TAB's records.

The state's largest business organization has fought disclosing its corporate donors for almost three years, saying that would violate the companies' First Amendment rights. But among 20,000 pages of documents the business group has released, it left telltale clues that identify 18 corporations — 15 of them insurance companies — that helped finance a Republican takeover of the Legislature.

By disclosing almost two-thirds of its 30 or so corporate donors, TAB may have undercut its arguments to keep secret the other donors' names."

The Texas Whip: Rip Salutes David Dewhurst, a Voice of Reason

The Texas Whip: Rip Salutes David Dewhurst, a Voice of Reason: "Here's the quote of the week from the Austin Chronicle.

'With 25 cents worth of local school property tax reduction and with oil at $50 [a barrel] … they're making themselves out [to be] the poster children for greed and hurting the schoolchildren, consumers, and all Texas businesses.' – Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last week, on the opposition of the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas Chemical Council to closing corporate tax loopholes as part of school finance legislation. "

Session begins quickly, but criticisms remain.

Session begins quickly, but criticisms remain.: "On the House side, GOP Speaker Tom Craddick chose to bypass the Public Education Committee, which includes six Republicans and three Democrats, and instead appointed a select committee made up of the five House Republicans who negotiated a final plan with the Senate in the closing days of the last session. The select committee reapproved that plan Thursday.

But that decision drew fire from Democrats, who said the full committee should have spent more time weighing the proposal in public.

'We can solve this problem,' said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco. 'But we can't solve it with the same five people in the same back room excluding the people of Texas from the process.'"

Burnt Orange Report - Jews: Check, Homos: Still Outsourcing Them

Burnt Orange Report - Jews: Check, Homos: Still Outsourcing Them: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry has issued and apology over the way his office handled the signing of a bill that sends to voters a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Perry apologized to the Jewish community for inviting the leader of a so-called Jews for Jesus group to the event to represent the Jewish community, but he has not apologized to gays for saying that if they want to marry they should get out of Texas."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Big backers place their bets for Gov's race

The Austin Chronicle: News: Naked City: "Big business and home-building interests represented the lion's share of contributions to Gov. Rick Perry's campaign coffers in June, while trial lawyers and racetrack interests put their money on Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn in the governor's race."

The Rove Affair: Fast-talk is hurting White House's credibility | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Editorials: "Though it's impossible to say anything conclusive until after the grand jury issues its report, a couple of things are becoming clear: Karl Rove is probably not guilty of what the Democrats say he is, but this imbroglio is more politically significant than the Republicans – and those of us who support this president – wish it were."

Give It a Rest: Legislators, let court rule on school funding | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Editorials: "Forget it.

Gov. Rick Perry need not call another special session on school finance. He's called two already over the last 16 months. Plus, the Legislature tackled the subject in its regular session this year. The result from all three gatherings has been nothing, zero, nada.

At each turn, the governor and legislators have failed to craft any meaningful solution to the state's school funding crisis, which has nearly 75 percent of Texas school districts wondering about their next dollar."

Tom DeLay's Moral Relativism and GOP Army of Ethical Corruption

Tom DeLay's Moral Relativism and GOP Army of Ethical Corruption: "Open up a national daily or watch a cable talk show and you'd think that House Democrats have been committing ethics violations just as serious and as frequently as those committed by House Republicans. Of course, that's what's House Republicans want you to think, but the truth is that it's a comparison between apples and oranges.

While House Republicans and their colleagues are under federal investigation for breaking federal laws, their Democratic counterparts are being skewered in the press for trip reporting lapses. Hardly the same category of offense. But that doesn't stop Members of Congress like Representative Jack Kingston (R-NY) from claiming that 'Democrats have just as many substantive questions.'

Simply put, this is not true."

Contributions Down for DeLay Legal Fund

Contributions Down for DeLay Legal Fund: "Majority Leader Tom DeLay raised $42,900 for his legal expense fund in the quarter ending June 30 _ short of the fund's expenses during the period, a House report showed Thursday.

Expenses for the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust totaled $56,211 in the second quarter. Most of the disbursements, more than $45,600, went to the Washington firm of DeLay lawyer Bobby Burchfield.

DeLay faces a possible investigation this year by the House ethics committee, which admonished him on three separate issues in 2004. News articles have questioned whether a Washington lobbyist or his clients paid for some of DeLay's nongovernment travel, despite House rules prohibiting lobbyist travel payments."

School finance deal eludes lawmakers

Star-Telegram | 07/21/2005 | School finance deal eludes lawmakers: "Teacher pay raises, a property tax cut, money for millions of new school textbooks and limits on government condemnation powers all spiraled down the drain Wednesday, casualties of another spectacular failure in the Texas Legislature.

But quitting now is not an option for exhausted lawmakers.

Two hours before the 30-day special session sputtered to an end Wednesday night, Gov. Rick Perry called another one starting today.

'Education reform and property tax relief are the two most important issues the Legislature faces, and lawmakers won't leave Austin until both priorities are addressed,' Perry said.

He would not say what besides the school finance overhaul might be considered in the new session."

Burnt Orange Report - Final Judgment: Leadership Needs to Step Back

Burnt Orange Report - Final Judgment: Leadership Needs to Step Back: "Sen. Whitmire successfully filibustered HB2, and the 1st called special session ended without a single bill to help fund Texas' public schools or to lower property taxes for Texas homeowners. Word around the capitol is that neither the House or the Senate had the votes to pass HB2 anyway, which tells the leadership something important:

You can't just ram any old education bill through the Legislature. It's too important, and it's not a partisan issue. The leadership's misplaced priorties continue to put the rich ahead of our public schools."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Honey, Where You Been So Long?--Blind John Davis

Honey, Where You Been So Long?: "Blind John Davis has always been one of my favorite blues session piano players. It was only recently learned that he did a handful of pre-war recordings under his own name. This track “Anna Lou Breakdown” features some really great piano playing - Davis was never a flashy player, but he had the best piano “sound” around and a few stanzas of lyrics. The real treat here of course is the wonderful piano playing by Davis who never really got to shine as a session player.

Blind John Davis - Anna Lou Breakdown"

Texas lawmaker says pot-flavored candy promotes drug use

KLTV 7 Tyler-Longview-Jacksonville, TX: Texas lawmaker says pot-flavored candy promotes drug use: "The sale of marijuana-flavored lollipops has a Texas lawmaker voicing concern that children will become comfortable with the drug culture.
State Representative Aaron Pena (PEHN'-yah) has proposed legislation to control the sale of confections that simulate the taste of marijuana. Those are sold under the such names as Chronic Candy and Pot Suckers.

The candy gets marijuana's grassy flavor from hemp oil -- which is an ingredient found in health food and used in beauty products and other household supplies. But the confections are legal because they don't include the chemical that creates a high."

Another session?

The Herald Democrat: "Legislation that would have limited government from taking private property likely will not be approved in this special legislative session after the House refused to negotiate with the Senate on final details of the measure.

State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, who represents Grayson and Fannin counties in the Texas Legislature said he voted in favor of negotiating with the Senate.

'This is a really important topic for Texans and across the nation to make sure that people's private property is protected.'"

School reform headed for vote

Star-Telegram | 07/20/2005 | School reform headed for vote: "A school reform bill will likely go before the Texas House and Senate for a vote today -- the last day of a special session on education reform -- but the bill can't take effect without crucial companion tax legislation that appears all but dead.

As a result, there likely will not be any definitive school finance reform from this special session.

But Gov. Rick Perry has pledged to call lawmakers back to Austin to try again.

'I think Thursday looks like a good day, but no formal decision has been made because the session has not finished,' Perry spokesman Robert Black said about when the next session might start."

DeLay Supports Repeal Of Love Field Flight Restrictions - News - DeLay Supports Repeal Of Love Field Flight Restrictions: "U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says he'd favor repeal of federal restrictions on long-haul commercial airline flights in and out of Dallas Love Field.

The Sugar Land Republican was asked Wednesday in Washington about his position on the restrictions embodied in the 1979 Wright Amendment. He said he never supported the legislation, which he believes to be a government intrusion that interferes with free-market principles."

In Our View: Everybody pays

Texarkana Gazette: News and Classifieds From Texarkana, Texas/Arkansas: "Oil industry fighting plan to close tax loopholes

A few years back when he was campaigning in Texarkana, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst dropped by the Gazette to talk with editors and reporters about his campaign. One of the things about Dewhurst that stuck out was his promise to stand up for the working people of Texas and stand up to special interests out only for their own gain.

For the most part, Dewhurst has done what he promised. He's locked horns a few times over policy issues, even with members of his own Republican Party, when he thought the issues were important for Texas and Texans.

Now Dewhurst is taking on one of the biggest bulls in the herd by accusing the state's oil and gas industry of being greedy for trying to stop efforts to close loopholes in the Texas tax code that let some businesses operate in the state without paying taxes to the state. It's unfair to other businesses that have to pay up, analysts say, and also deprives the state of much-needed tax revenue."

Judgment Day for Texas Legislature

Burnt Orange Report: "An article in the San Antonio Express News confirms what many around the capitol believe to be true -- that with HB3 already dead, if HB2 doesn't pass, then there's no reason to call anyone back for an immediate special session. The article reads:

Ogden said he believes Perry’s decision on a new special session to deal with taxes likely will hinge on whether lawmakers are able to pass a related bill, House Bill 2."

Burnt Orange Report - Money in Texas

Burnt Orange Report - Money in Texas: "Now a couple things to note and I will make a more detailed post about Bell in just a bit. Perry and Strayhorn will raise as much as they feel they need to win the primary. Granted, they will spend most of it, but by no means should we think that will leave the GOP drained of cash. There may have bitter feelings towards the winner and not volunteer as much or reconsider their vote, but the cash will still flow as needed. But their nominee will be damaged.

Bell hasn't announced. We are all quite aware of this but sometimes we forget how that changes the dynamic. Many donors refuse to give to someone who isn't actually a candidate. Why would you or I want to spend $5,000 on someone who will end up dropping out of the race? Imagine how all the donors to the Jim Stork for Congress campaign in Florida felt when mid-race, he dropped out due to health with little explanation? No one likes to feel used or burned. That said, $153k is paltry. If it was from an announced candidate, I'd say yes, they'd be through. But he's not."

Tax changes appear headed toward another special session

Tax changes appear headed toward another special session: "Lawmakers expect to vote on a major education spending plan today that could increase the amount of money Central Texas school districts spend on each student by 3 percent to 9 percent and free some districts from sending money to their poorer counterparts.

State leaders, though, failed late Tuesday to reach agreement on the other side of school finance reform: trading lower property taxes for other tax increases. After the special legislative session ends tonight, Gov. Rick Perry probably will call lawmakers back for another session Thursday."

Session ends today with no tax deal

Session ends today with no tax deal - The Daily Texan - Top Stories: "The Texas Legislature will discuss a public school bill today in an attempt to pass some reforms before the special session ends tonight at midnight.

Stalled negotiations on the accompanying tax bill, however, mean another 30-day special session will most likely begin Thursday.

Lawmakers tried to de-link the two bills so that education reforms could be implemented without tax changes, but funding allocation formulas in the reform bill proved inextricably tied to property taxes."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Senators hope to get Wright votes | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "The fight over a 26-year-old law that restricts flights to and from Dallas Love Field spread out all over the Capitol on Tuesday with proposals to open up commercial travel, close it or just open it to another state.

The Wright Amendment, passed in 1979, restricts long-haul flights from the airport that is home to discount carrier Southwest Airlines. The intent was to help growth at then-new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines' home.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., attached a measure to a spending bill to allow flights from Love Field to Missouri. The move pushes forward efforts to repeal the amendment, a move that several Texas Republicans have been resisting."

Burnt Orange Report - HB 2 and 3 Coverage Continued...

Burnt Orange Report - HB 2 and 3 Coverage Continued...: "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..."

Backing Texas' bases

Star-Telegram | 07/19/2005 | Backing Texas' bases: "A little more than a week ago, communities across the state had the opportunity to present their cases to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commissioners at a hearing in San Antonio.

I could not be more proud of Texas and the job that each of our communities did. The BRAC commissioners learned something we have all known for a long time: Texas military bases are some of the finest in the world, with some of the strongest community support.

Since the Defense Department forwarded its recommendations to the BRAC Commission on May 13, Texas has been working overtime to help communities that the BRAC process might hurt."

Senate bill would lift Love Field restrictions

Senate bill would lift Love Field restrictions - 2005-07-19: "Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign on Tuesday introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would lift restrictions imposed by the Wright Amendment on flights out of Dallas Love Field.

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Ensign, joined by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.. unveiled the bill at a press conference Tuesday."

Airport squabble over law spreads south - Airport squabble over law spreads south: "'Set Love Free.'

That's the message Southwest Airlines brought to Houston on Monday as the nation's low-fare leader continued its campaign against the Wright Amendment.

The 'Love' in this case refers to the Dallas airport, where Southwest is trying to get route restrictions that are a part of the amendment lifted.

The Wright Amendment, passed in 1979, restricts long-haul flights from Love Field in Dallas, where Southwest is based. The intent was to help growth at then-new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

A bill to repeal the amendment has been filed in the U.S. House, and Southwest's President, Colleen Barrett, told the Greater Houston Partnership Monday that one could be filed in the Senate as early as this week."

Perry promises to call back legislators if job's undone - Perry promises to call back legislators if job's undone: "With Gov. Rick Perry threatening to call lawmakers back again, House and Senate members entered the final stretch of a special session today appearing to move closer to a deal on part of a school funding plan.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said House and Senate negotiators had reached an agreement on a bill that would give teachers a pay raise and put more money into bilingual education and transportation.

'It's a real good bill,' Dewhurst said.

It would give teachers a pay raise of about $2,000 in 2006 and $2,500 in 2007, Dewhurst said. He said the agreement could get a Senate vote late Tuesday or Wednesday — the last day of the special legislative session."

It's Cornyn vs. Ensign

It's Cornyn vs. Ensign: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has begun campaigning to be the next vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, opening the only fight for a Republican leadership post.

He has decided to challenge Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who announced his decision to seek the post after deciding not to run against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). Hutchison is running for chairmanship of the Republican Policy Committee, the party’s fourth ranking post.

Whoever wins the race would begin serving after the 2006 elections.

Cornyn and Ensign are well-liked and respected by their Republican colleagues, who cast secret ballots in leadership elections. Both are conservative on social and economic issues."

Campaign finances detailed | News for Dallas, Texas | Nation: "Rep. Henry Bonilla raised $1.5 million in the last three months, pushing his holdings to nearly $2.1 million as he prepared to run for the Senate – a race he ruled out once Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decided to stay put and not challenge Gov. Rick Perry.

'I was realistic about it. It was either this road or that road. I'm still on the road,' Mr. Bonilla said Monday, adding that he'll give at least $100,000 to other GOP candidates."

Barton blasted by peer | News for Dallas, Texas | Nation: "The chairman of the House Science Committee has accused Texas Rep. Joe Barton of launching a 'misguided and illegitimate' inquiry to intimidate top climatologists and discredit warnings about global warming.

Mr. Barton, chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, has demanded extensive data and financial records from the researchers. On Monday he said he wouldn't back down, despite mounting pressure from scientists, environmentalists and Democrats.

Now, in an unusually testy and public exchange between chairmen from the same party, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., accused Mr. Barton of ignorance of the relevant science.

'It is certainly appropriate for Congress to try to understand scientific disputes that impinge on public policy,' Mr. Boehlert wrote his fellow chairman, in a letter released Monday. 'But you have taken a decidedly different approach – one that breaks with precedent and raises the specter of politicians opening investigations against any scientist who reaches a conclusion that makes the political elite uncomfortable.'"

Perry threatens to call another session | News for Denton, Texas | Texas/Southwest: "Gov. Rick Perry issued a blunt warning to lawmakers Monday – cut a deal on school finance and property taxes or spend August in Austin.

'He is telling them ... that he will call them back if they don't get the job done by Wednesday,' said Perry press secretary Kathy Walt, as negotiations were slow-going for yet another day.

Wednesday is the final day of the 30-day session called by Mr. Perry last month. Ms. Walt said that although the governor would decide the precise day to start another session once the current one ends, she added: 'Thursday looks like a good day.'"

McReynolds: Session won't be successful

McReynolds: Session won't be successful: "Unless the Texas Legislature manages to 'pull a rabbit out of its hat,' it doesn't look like its members will reach any type of agreement on public school finance before the current special session ends at midnight Wednesday, state Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, said Monday.

McReynolds said even if state lawmakers come to a consensus, House bills 2 and 3, which deal with school reform and property taxes, respectively, are bad for school districts like Lufkin, Central and Huntington if they remain unchanged.

'We've got some immensely serious problems that we have to address,' McReynolds said. 'When I talked to Gov. Perry the other day, he asked me what we need to do to make school finance work. I told him that we need to come up with a school bill that 150 of us can agree on."

Rick Perry vs The World - Hutchison vs. Radnofsky numbers

Rick Perry vs The World - Hutchison vs. Radnofsky numbers: "More campaign finance reports, this time from the Senate race. The time period ended on the last day of June, and covered the preceeding 3 months.

Kay Bailey Hutchison has $7.4 million in cash on hand. She raised $502K (about 60K from PACs), spent $364K.

Barbara Radnofsky, the only announced Democrat, has $349K in cash on hand. She raised $137 and spent $48K."

Rick Perry vs The World - KBH rumored for Supreme Court

Rick Perry vs The World - KBH rumored for Supreme Court: "She skipped running for the governor's she could go to the Supreme Court?

This Reuters report names Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as a potential candidate for the Supreme Court."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up ***Update***

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up ***Update***: "***EVENING UPDATE***
As the hours tick by on HB 2 and 3 the conferees have started trying to 'detach' HB2 from HB 3. It seems that conventional wisdom at the dome is that HB 3 is a sinking ship and if anything is going to be salvaged from this special session that HB 2 will have to be decoupled from it. Rumor also has it that another special session will be called on Thursday to start all over again. That's exactly what they will have to do too unless they get something passed. Tick , Tick, Tick..."

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Daily Kos: State of the Nation: "know that this has already been blogged, but I want to focus on two key points on that Rove-themed ABC News poll.

First of all:

Should Karl Rove Be Fired If He Leaked Classified Information?
Yes No
All 75% 15%
Republicans 71 17
Independents 74 17
Democrats 83 12"

Burnt Orange Report - Memo to Lege: Don't Miss These Votes!

Burnt Orange Report - Memo to Lege: Don't Miss These Votes!: "In this morning's Dallas Morning News, Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) talked about why the House didn't want to change anything with HB 3:

'We've got a one-vote margin in the House, and if you keep on messing with something, you're going to cause problems.'

Republicans know that the vote in the House is close, and any changes could swing the vote so that the bill would fail. However, that threat is only possible if all House members stay in town for the next few days. If members start assuming that no bill will come out and decide to leave, then a bill comes out and they miss the vote, there will certainly be hell to pay with constituents back home."

ABC News: Poll: Many Doubt White House Cooperation in CIA Leak Probe

ABC News: Poll: Many Doubt White House Cooperation in CIA Leak Probe: "Just a quarter of Americans think the White House is fully cooperating in the federal investigation of the leak of a CIA operative's identity, a number that's declined sharply since the investigation began. And three-quarters say that if presidential adviser Karl Rove was responsible for leaking classified information, it should cost him his job."

Lawmakers agree to half of finance plan | News for Austin, Texas | Local News: "While few lawmakers wanted to have the special session, many fear that Gov. Rick Perry will immediately order another if they don't pass the two bills by Wednesday.

'We really don't want to be here during the month of August,' said House education committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington.

Asked if Mr. Perry will call another session if this one fails, Mr. Craddick said: 'I have no idea what he'll do.'

Mr. Dewhurst was expected to use the threat of a prolonged stay in Austin to try to persuade Democratic senators not to filibuster any compromise.

Nonpartisan legislative analysts have found that proposals to cut property taxes and raise sales and business taxes generally would reduce the tax burden only for Texans making about $140,000 or more. The rest would generally pay more." Metro | State Metro | State: "Although the base closure commission's San Antonio regional hearing is history, some might be tempted to think there's nothing to do now but wait."

Strayhorn must count on new GOP voters - Editorial & Opinion - 07/17/2005 - McNeely: Strayhorn must count on new GOP voters: "It's possible Gov. Perry has irked enough people - particularly in the education community - that even some who voted for him in the past will turn thumbs down.

His staff has boasted that in a primary, no one can get to the right of Perry, who has shamelessly panderied to the religious right. But that leaves the center - if a center develops in the modern GOP primary.

A couple of polls of GOP voters earlier showed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate conservative, beating Perry almost two to one.

Perry's unbroken string of election victories could have been ended had Hutchison not decided to run for re-election instead of governor next year."

School finance plan flounders

The Paris News: "Prospects for education reform floundered Sunday, and state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, says he’s ready to go home.

“If we can not achieve equity for our districts, we should stop the process and go home,” Eltife said today. “No deal is better than a bad one.”

Eltife said neither conference committee — the one on education reform in HB 2 and on property tax reform in HB 3 — has yet come to agreement.

The special session called in June by Gov. Rick Perry ends Wednesday.

“I am very concerned about House Bill 2,” Eltife said. “I want to make sure the Senate holds firm and does not give up 98 percent equity and the $3,000 pay raise for our teachers.”

State gambles on üIT consolidation

State gambles on üIT consolidation: "Dustin Lanier knows it won't be easy getting more than 200 agencies to turn over responsibility for their IT infrastructures to the Texas Department of Information Resources when a new state law takes effect Sept. 1.

But the department's director of strategic initiatives is betting that having the right people to help him will make the difference between success and failure. For that help, he has turned to Brian Rawson and Kim Weatherford, both with heavy experience managing agency-level IT in Texas.

'They have a lot of credibility with agencies in terms of having both direct background and logistical experience,' Lanier said.

The trio will begin selling the concept of a centrally coordinated IT infrastructure at a conference next month in Dallas. The pitch also will contribute to a growing business opportunity for systems integrators to provide outsourcing and other services to the state. "

EYE ON POLITICS: Ted Nugent may have 2006 campaign in his sights

EYE ON POLITICS: Ted Nugent may have 2006 campaign in his sights: "Now that pursuit of the 2006 Republican nomination for governor has taken what is likely to be final form -- businessman Dick DeVos a prohibitive favorite (barring an unlikely challenge from risk-averse Congresswoman Candice Miller) over two relatively unknown state lawmakers, Sen. Nancy Cassis and Rep. Jack Hoogendyk -- it seems like a good time to talk about another candidate who almost certainly won't get in the race and, if he did, more than almost certainly could not win.

We refer, of course, to semi-famous guitarist and hunter Ted Nugent.

One can never be quite sure how seriously to take anything that comes out of Uncle Ted's mouth, but he recently told interviewers he was 'getting real close to deciding to run' for governor. That follows a vow made during the 2002 campaign to run in '06 if Democrat Jennifer Granholm was elected.

He's since moved to Texas, but when we asked six months ago, a Nugent spokeswoman said the anti-Granholm pledge had not been retracted."

I almost wish he'd run in Texas. I can just see the comparisons of the Wild Man and Kinky

'Tough grandma' proposes education reforms

'Tough grandma' proposes education reforms - The Daily Texan - State & Local: "Texas Comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn made a campaign stop Friday afternoon at the Arboretum Marriot to speak at the annual leadership conference of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

The self-proclaimed 'tough grandma' touted her proposed education plans and attempted to win the hearts (and votes) of Texas school teachers.

Strayhorn proposed an automatic $3,000 pay increase for every public school teacher effective immediately, followed by a mandatory biennial raise, citing a yearly loss of $13.3 billion to the state 'because teachers are underpaid.'

If elected governor, she also wants to implement her Texas- NextStep program, 'making K-14 education the norm in Texas.' "

Small Texas towns fight landfills

Small Texas towns fight landfills - The Daily Texan - Top Stories: "Proposed landfill expansions are causing a stink among Austin environmentalists. Residents and activists are upset with landfill management and sprawling towers of trash, which, in one case, have made up about 700 feet of pure waste that is pushing its way to neighboring yards.

This summer has been packed with legislation regarding landfills, the fight over expansion at a Northeast Travis County landfill and the push for landfill policy reform.

Currently, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental authority board, is rewriting landfill rules. Robin Schneider, director of the state environmental lobbyist group Texas Campaign for the Environment, said she and TCE want to make sure TCEQ creates better policies, including better management of facilities.

SBC wins big in state House Business: "The Texas House of Representatives voted 135-6 Sunday to pass a controversial bill that would make it easier for the state's biggest phone companies to offer pay television service.

Supporters of the measure — which the Senate approved with minor differences Wednesday — said it would create jobs and investment by letting SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. each negotiate a single franchise with the state to offer video.

Under current rules, the companies must negotiate agreements with each city they plan to serve — just as their cable competitors did. But San Antonio-based SBC and New York-based Verizon have argued that reaching individual agreements would slow their rollouts.

'(With passage of the bill), we're going to see competition increase year after year,' said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who championed the measure. 'It will be kind of like what happened with local service and long distance.'"

Brother and sister seek bids for governor, lieutenant governor | News for Denton, Texas | AP: Texas: "A 62-year-old Fort Worth man and his sister know they're long shots to become the first siblings elected governor and lieutenant governor.

Felix Alvarado and Maria Luisa Alvardo, 49, say their effort is more about taking a stand.

'It is almost impossible to take on an incumbent and win. I know that,' said Felix Alvarado, an assistant principal. 'I was trying to make a statement: Listen to the people; we count too.'

Both Democrats named campaign treasurers last month, a sign they're serious about the 2006 election.

However, that does not mean the political world is serious about them. Gilbert Cuthbertson, a Rice University political scientist, said the Alvarados could garner some votes just because they're a curiosity.

'Texas voters like something different,' Cuthbertson said. 'This will appeal to voters — not very many, however.'

The Alvarados still face hurdles to make it to the March 7 Democratic primary ballot. They each need 5,000 signatures or $3,750 on filing fees."

Democrat votes on CAFTA crucial | 07/17/2005 | Democrat votes on CAFTA crucial: "After years of being kept at the margins, Democrats, especially Texas Democrats, are suddenly more popular in the House, where Republicans need their votes to pass a trade bill.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement -- which would remove tariffs on goods traded between the United States and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua -- is expected to be brought up for a House vote this month before Congress recesses for the summer.

There are enough GOP opponents of the bill to make it close, so House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has delayed scheduling a vote until he senses that the pact has the support to pass.

The leading CAFTA proponent among Texas Democrats is Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo. He counts at least three other Democrats who solidly support the bill. The other seven are undecided or oppose it.

Why is Cuellar, a freshman, out front on the bill?

'Jobs, jobs, jobs,' he said. 'When you look at the trade with these countries, their goods are coming in duty-free, but we face tariffs on our exports. Right now, it's a one-way street. With the agreement we'll be able to export more, and more jobs can be created.'"

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up: "There's been a whole lot of moving and shaking in the Lege over the weekend over HB 2 and 3 and as of 2:30am this morning, the conference committees still had not reached a consensus on HB 2. At that time the Senate submitted its proposal to the house and we will have to wait until this morning to see if the House accepts. The sticking point on HB 2 at this point is recapture, or how much wealthy school districts should have to give to the less well off school districts.

The sticking points on HB 3 are the sales tax and the homestead exemption. This weekend a $15,000 increase in the homestead exemption was shot down and it appears as if the Senate is beginning to cave on the sales tax. The Senate approved a .5% increase while the House wants a 1% increase. There have been statements that seem to say that the Senate may give on the sales tax if other taxes are trimmed. Sen. West, D-Dallas wants the homestead exemption to be raised to $22,500 to off set the raise in the sales tax, but as of now there is no raise in the homestead exemption on the table. Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso has promised to filibuster HB 3 if there is any raise in the sales tax above the .5% the Senate agreed upon."

Burnt Orange Report - Hurricane Watch for South Texas

Burnt Orange Report - Hurricane Watch for South Texas: "Hurricane Watch for South Texas

Redefining Chicano Socio-Political Discourse...: Racism Spreads...

Redefining Chicano Socio-Political Discourse...: Racism Spreads...: "I found this piece on the 'net. Apparently, the Minutemen are spreading East and North and they are spreading racist lies along the way--or at least exploiting racist beliefs within local communities.

A county commissioner in rural Tennessee has this to day about Latinos: 'County Commissioner Tom Lowe, who says 'we do not want (all) Hispanics stereotyped as illegal,' estimates as many as 85 percent of Hamblen's Hispanics are - and he fears they carry drug-resistant disease.'

'We could be two or three aliens away from an epidemic that would sweep through our county and state,' the retired pharmacist said."

Redefining Chicano Socio-Political Discourse...: Minutemen Chicken Out--Sorta!

Redefining Chicano Socio-Political Discourse...: Minutemen Chicken Out--Sorta!: "The white supremacist group called 'the Minutemen' has changed its mind. They aren't coming to Houston. Instead, they are going to recruit in and around Houston for all sorts of yahoos who want to become instant vigilantes so that 'locals' can patrol for 'illegals'.

So, I guess the group won't be made up of just tobacco-chaw'n, two-toothed ingrates. One can expect all types of neighbors, including those in high-priced SUVs from the suburbs (or in-city enclaves like Bellaire and West U), to be 'patroling' all these areas of Houston that they refuse to drive through in the first place!"

Burnt Orange Report - John Sharp RoundUp

Burnt Orange Report - John Sharp RoundUp: "The other week we posted an article about the rumors of John Sharp jumping into the Governor's Race. Since that time, we have learned more information and I have kept tabs on a number of different comments and sources."

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up

Burnt Orange Report - House Bill 2 and 3 Weekend Round Up: "There's been a whole lot of moving and shaking in the Lege over the weekend over HB 2 and 3 and as of 2:30am this morning, the conference committees still had not reached a consensus on HB 2. At that time the Senate submitted its proposal to the house and we will have to wait until this morning to see if the House accepts. The sticking point on HB 2 at this point is recapture, or how much wealthy school districts should have to give to the less well off school districts."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Senate to Vote on Hawaiian Self-Rule Bill - Yahoo! News

Senate to Vote on Hawaiian Self-Rule Bill - Yahoo! News: "After six years of trying, Sen. Daniel Akaka (news, bio, voting record) hopes to finally see a vote in the Senate this week on one of the hardest-fought measures of his congressional career — his bill to grant his fellow Native Hawaiians federal recognition.

'It will have a historical impact,' said Akaka, D-Hawaii. 'It affects Hawaii, the Pacific, the nation.'

The measure is tentatively scheduled for debate Monday night and Tuesday, with a vote on Wednesday. Akaka and Hawaii's other Democratic senator, Daniel Inouye, say there are enough votes for approval.

It would grant Native Hawaiians the same rights of self-government enjoyed by American Indians and Native Alaskans, and would lead to U.S. recognition of a native governing entity.

The bill has the support of Hawaii's Democratic and Republican leaders of all races, including Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Legislature. Several thousand Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians signed an advertisement in support of the bill that appeared in last Sunday's Honolulu Advertiser."

Thousands Gather to Celebrate Megachurch

Thousands Gather to Celebrate Megachurch - Yahoo! News: "America's largest church celebrated its move into the former arena for the Houston Rockets with a capacity crowd of 16,000, an upbeat sermon from its televangelist pastor and a spirited welcome from the governor of Texas."

Armstrong Keeps Lead; Teammate Wins Stage

Armstrong Keeps Lead; Teammate Wins Stage - Yahoo! News: "Lance Armstrong kept his overall lead and teammate George Hincapie won the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, the hardest day of climbing in the Pyrenees."

Texas A&M Leads World in Cloning Animals

Texas A&M Leads World in Cloning Animals - Yahoo! News: "Eighty-six Squared has never been in a hurry. The Black Angus bull was born 15 years after cells from his genetic donor, Bull 86, were frozen as part of a study on natural disease resistance. When Bull 86 died in 1997, scientists thought his unique genetic makeup was lost. But researchers at Texas A&M University were able to clone him from the frozen cells in 2000.

Now 5 years old, 86 Squared spends his days grazing on a rural area of the A&M campus. He was in no rush to greet recent visitors, slowly sauntering from deep inside his large metal pen.

Similarly, Texas A&M researchers know animal cloning can't be rushed. Through painstaking experimentation, A&M is the world's first academic institution to clone six species in six years: cattle, a boer goat, pigs, a deer, a horse and — most famously — a cat named cc."

Burnt Orange Report - What is Bonilla up to?

Burnt Orange Report - What is Bonilla up to?: "I received in my inbox earlier this week the following e-mail solicitation from Congressman Henry Bonilla (who is not my current congressman at either of my last two registered addresses. Emphasis mine."

Lawmakers plenty happy to ride on judges' salaries - Robison: Lawmakers plenty happy to ride on judges' salaries: "THE Democrats were in charge when the Legislature years ago came up with the idea of tying lawmakers' retirement benefits to the salaries of state district judges. But the linkage has struck a rare bipartisan (albeit dubious) chord of harmony during these mostly contentious days of GOP control.

Democrats and Republicans alike now anticipate the promise of a richer 'deferred compensation' package, and lawmakers of both political persuasions are equally adept at washing their hands of something they claim — wink, wink — is out of their control.

The handwashing, however, doesn't wash.

If the House and the Senate reach agreement during this special session on a final judicial pay raise bill, with their increased retirement benefits intact, it will be because most legislators wanted it to happen.

Lawmakers' protests that they were powerless to separate their retirement pay from judges' salaries, as some were claiming last week after the House and the Senate had advanced separate pay raise measures, would have been more believable if someone actually had tried."
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