Monday, January 31, 2011

71% of TX political "insiders" say voter ID is a 'political issue'

According to the Texas Tribune's "insiders"...

This week, we asked our insiders about voter fraud — which was simultaneously being cussed and discussed in the Texas Senate debate over photo voter ID — to see whether they think it's a real problem (14 percent), a political issue (71 percent) or both (16 percent).

One of them commented:

"Legislative emergencies should be used for true emergencies, not the issues the Governor's pollster deems red meat. Also, answers to your first question will skew the voter ID debate -- many believe voter fraud is real, but the only kind of fraud voter ID legislation addresses is voter impersonation at Election Day polling places. That type of fraud has not been shown to be a real issue, despite the AG's best efforts."

Presumably their list of "insiders" -- the list is at the link above -- is fair and balanced (I'm tired of using italics in this post but they are certainly inferred WRT the previous phrase), so this represents a pretty embarrassing truism for Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and the Senate Republicans: three out of four see through their BS, while the remaining insider is likely a Teabagging sycophant.

But I don't think the governor is going to be too embarrassed by this poll's results. Do you?

Update: The Chronicle's op-ed is withering in its criticism and reminds us of the legal hurdles VID must still clear ...

But the bill is by no means a sure thing. The U.S. Justice Department will be reviewing it to see that it complies with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is among Southern states with a history of discrimination against minority voters that must get clearance from that department before making such changes. Another hurdle to overcome is that voter fraud is not an issue at polling booths. If anything, voter registration and mail-in ballots are more of a concern, but neither of those activities requires a photo ID.

If the bill becomes law, it will cost about $2 million to implement — at a time when we’re watching every penny. No problem, says Dewhurst. We could get a federal grant to foot the bill.

From the same feds, we assume, who spend like drunken sailors and interfere in our state business.

This is a hasty, mean-spirited bill that could cause far more problems than it solves. We urge the Justice Department to give it their full attention.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to retire the phrase "blue norther" for another year as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff took an early look at fundraising for 2011 city of Houston elections.

The Big Gas Mafia says it's impossible but hydraulic fracturing causes gas to migrate, threatening lives... AGAIN. TXsharon puts 2 and 2 together at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Bay Area Houston has a press release from the governor titled Rick Perry Asks Republican Voters to Quit Their State Jobs.

A Texas republican is at the forefront of the movement to kill Medicare. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is not surprised.

This week at Left of College Station Teddy calls out Congressman Bill Flores' health care hypocrisy for voting to repeal health care reform that ensures health care for millions of Americans while voting against repealing his own government health care. Teddy also covers the week in headlines.

The Texas Cloverleaf highlights the Texas House Republican vote against open government.

Ryan at TexasVox asks "Where's the outrage?" from TCEQ approving another polluting power plant despite local opposition, warnings from the EPA, and rulings from two SOAH hearings. The facility is ironically named Las Brisas plant in Corpus Christi.

During the voter I.D. legislation fight on the floor of the Texas Senate last week, a new problem emerged on the policy. And it's not what you think this time: potential problems for minorities, or the elderly, or rural Texans, or poor folks. This time, it's a problem with your right to vote. Yes, you. Letters From Texas explains why.

Eye On Williamson points out that the state GOP's proposed budget is asking for huge sacrifices from poor and working Texans, but little or nothing from the wealthy and corporations, in the Texas GOP budget proposal is morally bankrupt.

Ever been broken down on the side of the road and everybody in the car is arguing about who's going to get out in the rain and try to fix what's wrong? Well, that's where the state's highway fund is. And our Austin representatives are "ready to have a discussion" about it. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs double-checked, and no, nobody has a roadside assistance plan, either.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw serves up a heaping helpin' of snark in Rick Perry Urges Republican Voters to Abandon Public Schools. By the reactions she got, she ruffled a few feathers. You go girl!

Neil at Texas Liberal had jury duty the past week. Neil dressed well for the responsibility and feels that you should do the same when you are called. What merits greater respect than our common society?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egypt collapses into revolution

Thousands of inmates have broken out of their prisons (some reports indicate they were let loose by authorities) and have joined the demonstrators in the streets of cities throughout Egypt. 'Looters' and 'criminals' carrying government identification are rioting. Warplanes are repeatedly buzzing the crowds in Cairo. Police and soldiers have demonstrated an unusual amount of sympathy for the protesters, and now even hundreds of judges have joined the outcry. All this according to as-I-type broadcasts from mostly foreign services including al-Jazeera and the BBC.

This follows the resignation two weeks ago of the president of Tunisia and unrest in other Arab nations including Yemen and even Jordan.

We have revolution, and some of it is being televised, and Tweeted and Facebooked, despite the Egyptian Internet switch being turned off.

Update: Follow the al-Jazeera live blog here.

Texas state highway fund is broke down on the side of the road

Texas soon will be shelling out more per year to pay back money it borrowed for road construction than it spends from its quickly vanishing pile of cash to build new highways.

Legislative leaders characterize the state's transportation funding as a crisis. Most Texans, they say, are unaware of its severity and must be educated before the state can find new ways to finance new roads.

The gasoline tax pays for road maintenance and construction but has not increased in 20 years. Gas tax revenue peaked in 2008 and likely will decline as vehicles become more fuel-efficient.

"It's not a crisis until everybody agrees that it's a crisis. Right now, people who don't understand it are saying, 'You're crying wolf,'" said House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso. "Yes, it's a crisis."

Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, agrees.

"The gravity of the situation is that in the absence of further action by the Legislature this session, we will literally be out of money for new construction in 2012 in the fastest-growing state in the country and in one of the largest states in the country," he said. "We need to begin to have a discussion about it."

Unfinished roads -- Roads to Nowhere? -- potholes, bridges broken down, then finally toll roads and Lexus lanes... but isn't this what a whole lotta Texans voted for in the last election?

What is everyone so upset about? Besides the ill eagles, as usual?

Remember: this is a financial issue mostly separated from the state's budget shortfall, which is also a crisis ... but not yet one of Rick Perry's emergencies, like voter ID, or sanctuary cities, or mandatory sonograms for women considering their reproductive options.

The transportation funding problem is separate from the state's projected $15 billion to $27 billion budget shortfall. The Texas Department of Transportation does not get any general revenue to build or maintain roads.

Legislative leaders generally agree that hiking the gasoline tax is not a viable option for several reasons, including the no-tax-increase pledge by Gov. Rick Perry and others. But Pickett wants that option on the table.

The proposed budget calls for the state to spend nearly $3 billion a year on road maintenance and nearly $800 million a year to repay debt. Less than $600 million, however, will be available per year for new road construction, which will not buy much pavement.

For example, the U.S. 290 corridor from Loop 610 to FM 2920 in Waller runs 38 miles and will cost $2.4 billion, according to TxDOT officials.

State lawmakers still have $3 billion left to authorize from a $5 billion road bond issue approved by Texas voters in 2007. Williams said he will push for that in the coming months.

The state began borrowing money in 2003 to pay for roads and now owes $11.9 billion. It will cost more than $21 billion to repay those bonds, Pickett said.

"We are trying to warn people," Pickett said, "Is this the way you really want to go? If you could get everybody around the table and put politics aside, common sense would say the conservative thing to do would be to limit borrowing capacity and put more cash in."

But hey, the Republicans elected in mass majorities just two months ago have a handle on it.

(Williams) agreed that the growing debt is a problem but said it is manageable given the size of the state, likening borrowing money for roads to buying a home with a 30-year mortgage.

A 30-year mortgage? Really, Tommy? In the current real estate market? You didn't sign us up for an ARM, did you?

Williams and Pickett agree that higher vehicle registration fees would help counter the immediate funding pressures. Current vehicle registration fees run about $60 a year in Texas.

Both said there's no benefit in assessing the state's long-term highway needs because that cost is so staggering that "you push the public away," as Pickett put it.

A report two years ago by the Texas Transportation Institute and others indicated the state's highway needs between now and 2030 would cost $488 billion.

Texans now pay 20 cents of state tax on every gallon of gasoline — a nickel of it goes to public education - which costs a person who drives 12,000 miles a year and averages 21 miles per gallon pays $7.14 a month. People who get better mileage spend less, Picket said.

A 5-cent hike in the state gas tax would raise about $575 million for roads and $190 million for schools.

"Is it OK to keep borrowing money, putting it on the credit card and paying high interest - or, should we raise the gas tax?" Pickett said.

Higher fees, more debt, and/or raising taxes are the choices. And "let's have a discussion about it" is what's coming out of the mouths of Republicans in the state legislature. I think I hear a Teapot squealing.

The Republicans have been in charge of Texas for almost 20 years now and this state is in the worst shape it has ever been in its entire history. Prior to 1998 the Democrats had been in control for about a hundred years and not once during the entire time have the state's financial consequences been this dire. Not once.

Rick Perry (and David Dewhurst, and everybody running for Kay Bailey's chair too, for that matter) has gone from boasting about the strength of the Texas economy during the campaign season to blaming all our troubles on Washington -- that is, when he can bring himself to admit we have any troubles at all. It's the same con game as his public persona; the drugstore-cowboy equivalent of bragging about how brave you are because you shot a coyote, even though nobody actually saw you do it and there's no dead coyote to be found.

The fact is that Republicans rule, and Democrats govern. I realize this is difficult to understand, particularly if you have been drinking too much tea for the past year.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Things to do in Houston this weekend

-- The Houston Auto Show, now through Sunday the 30th, is offering free test drives on dozens of different models -- GMC, Buick, Chevy (including the Camaro), Toyota, and Kia. There are also free gifts for test-drivers.

-- The Chevron Houston Marathon and the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon will run through the streets of H-Town on Sunday.

This lists the street closures, so whether you're spectating or avoiding you'll know where to go. If you need a reason not to go, click here.

-- Sam Houston Race Park's thoroughbred season gets under way with the Connally Turf Cup, a $200,000 affair attracting some outstanding entries.

-- And if that's not enough for you, check out Artopia, sponsored by the Houston Press.

-- In a more partisan vein, the HCDP Comedy Showcase will be Sunday evening from 6-9, in coordination with the Houston Comedy Union.

Recent post updates

Re: More Senate stirrings and The Bush family pushback against the Tea Party ...

-- Dewhurst does DC, so does Leppert (ew):

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, widely presumed to start the race for U.S. Senate as the favorite if he decides to run, was in Washington (last) Thursday to meet with members of the Texas delegation on a range of issues.

Dewhurst was spotted in a meeting with a group of GOP lawmakers over the lunch hour, and a spokesman confirmed that the lieutenant governor was on the Hill to talk policy. ...

Asked if his political future was a subject of discussion during the meetings, Walz would only say that Dewhurst "was encouraged by his meetings with members of the delegation." ...

Rep. Joe Barton, now infamous nationally for apologizing to BP during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, told The Hill Thursday he likely would not pursue a Senate bid if Dewhurst does.

A GOP lobbyist also tells POLITICO that Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert was making the rounds in Washington Thursday.

Leppert, who recently announced he would not run for another mayoral term, is also toying with a Senate bid, but will face the challenge of being a regional candidate with little statewide name recognition.

-- Two Railroad Commissioners join the fray ...

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams formally announced he would run for the U.S. Senate at a Texas Tribune forum Thursday morning.

During his announcement Williams told the Tribune's Evan Smith that he and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who's also running, would probably attract some of the same supporters. He blasted the federal government for the Environmental Protection Agency "is sticking its nose in our business." He also said that he didn't feel that Dewhurst was the front-runner in contest.

He made a point of referring to himself as the "big dog" in the primary. He most certainly has the biggest head in the affair. Meanwhile, EAJ makes a little tiny ripple ...

Construction workers Jim Graf of Houston and Stacy Roberts of Conroe know barbecue, which is why they took a break from putting up a new Pizza Hut to chow down on brisket, chicken, beans and slaw at Goode Company Barbecue on Kirby. They didn't know Elizabeth Ames Jones, the Texas railroad commissioner who, coincidentally, was setting up in the parking lot out front on this chilly Tuesday to tout her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

"State senate or U.S. Senate?" Graf wanted to know.

"Republican or Democrat?" Roberts asked.

Ah ha ha ha ha.  More:

Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones continued her U.S. Senate announcement tour at the Texas Capitol, showing up a bit later than scheduled this afternoon with an anti-Washington message she hopes will take her to Washington....

There wasn't a crowd to greet her, although there were some supporters on hand -- including her husband, two nephews and former Texas Supreme Court justice Craig Enoch -- plus a handful of reporters who asked questions afterward.

Even Big Jolly is less than impressed. Kuffner has a bit more.

Re: The Texas Budget Cluster ... let's just load up the linkage.

-- As Perry bashed Recovery Act, Texas relied more heavily on stimulus funds than any other state to fill budget hole (Think Progress)

... in addition to filling nearly his entire budget gap with Recovery Act funds, Perry also used the Build America Bonds program — created as part of the Recovery Act — to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects. He also grandstanded against — and then promptly accepted — federal funding meant to prevent teacher layoffs.

-- Senate Passes Voter ID (Austin Chronicle)

-- The first ten amendments to the Voter ID bill and their fates, and the 11th through the 24th, and the 25th through 38th.

-- What would veteran lawmakers do about Texas' budget deficit? (Dallas News)

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on their advancement to the Super Bowl -- and notes the delicious irony in that they are playing the game in Dallas -- as it brings you this week's roundup.

WhosPlayin helped organize a cleanup for an historic African American cemetery dating back to about 1845 that had been the target of litterbugs and illegal dumpers. Respect for the dead, and respect for the land are still values that people from left and right can agree on.

Off the Kuff analyzed the initial Republican budget proposal and the utter havoc it would wreak on the state.

TXsharon at BLUEDAZE: Drilling Reform for Texas reported on two important developments on hydraulic fracturing: 1) the EPA is confident gas in Parker County water wells is from the Barnett Shale, and 2) the media took a lie about the EPA and regulating diesel fuel and repeated it without fact checking.

At Letters From Texas, Harold points out that Rick Perry keeps calling things "emergencies" that aren't, and continues to ignore emergencies that are.

Capitol Annex takes a look at a study showing that Texas gets an "F" when it comes to reporting outbreaks of food-borne illness and wonders why the media wasn't paying attention last year when candidates were making an issue of food safety in Texas.

There's a muddy, grunting scrum developing among the Republicans coveting the US Senate seat Kay Bailey is vacating, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs posts an update at a safe distance from the bottom of the pile.

Exactly why does Governor Perry want to insist that you can cut spending and maintain services? McBlogger's pretty sure it's a case of cognitive dissonance.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos gets it dead right whem she tells Goodhair to Man Up Governor Perry. Of course he won't. He has already double-downed on completing the demolition of Texas public education according to everything coming out about the new state budget.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know why Republicans hate people so very much.

TexasVox welcomes guest blogger Jim Hightower as part of a one-two punch on the nuclear waste dump in West Texas: Hightower's Dumping on Texas for Fun and Profit and an expose of Harold Simmons' last-minute contributions to Texas politicians in 2010.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote on the massive budget deficit in Texas, offering the view that Republican mismanagement of the state is not the only reason for the shortfall. Neil also cites poor citizenship by the many Texans who don't want to pay taxes in a state with no income tax, but who at the same time kick up a fuss when government services they use are cut.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rick Perry's emergencies

If you had the slightest doubt about Governor Zoolander running for president, you can put that aside now.

Legislation requiring women seeking an abortion to first have a sonogram is an emergency that merits expedited consideration by the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry told anti-abortion activists on Saturday.

A bill backed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick will be granted emergency status, Perry told more than a thousand anti-abortion protesters at a rally. They had gathered at the Capitol on the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.


The governor has previously announced four other emergency items for legislators to consider: eminent domain reform, ending "sanctuary city" policies that don't require police to check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest, a voter identification bill, and calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that would mandate a balanced federal budget.

The issues that Perry has given emergency status are important to his base of conservative activists and to the tea party movement.

Harold Cook has the lightest response, but this is really no laughing matter.

Tomorrow the Texas Senate will take up his first "emergency" -- voter ID -- in a 'committee of the whole' session.

It will eventually pass, and the only question is the level of opposition the minority will be able to muster. Whatever that amount is, how intense it may be, it will still only be symbolic.

Voter ID has the sole intention -- no matter how loudly or often Republicans claim it is something else -- of stifling Democratic turnout. Even prominent Republicans say that it will place a likely-insurmountable hardship on many of the elderly. But then that's just how they roll.

Moving forward, Democrats in Texas will have to make sure their voters have proper identification according to the legislation that will be crafted. Voters, for their part, are going to have to accept responsibility for making certain they are "qualified" to cast a ballot ... according to the GOP's definition of the word.

This additional voting requirement still won't stop disqualifications at polls, particularly those run by GOP election judges, nor will it end the thuggish tactics of the King Street Patriot/True the Vote denizens.

But it's going to be the new reality, just like community colleges closing, a hundred thousand teachers across Texas hitting the unemployment lines, and Medicaid patients dying because the the state no longer wants to pay for their care.

This is what a majority of Texans voted for last November. How do you like it so far?

Update: Burka, on the governor's priorities ...

I suspect that most governors, like 48 or 49 out of 50, would be embarrassed to fast-track such proposals when their state was facing a $27 billion budget deficit that is partly the result of the governor’s own policies, but nothing seems to be too blatantly political to embarrass Perry. And I think the reason no one really is wringing their hands over the governor’s upside-down priorities is that we long ago ceased to expect anything more.

And Gary Denton, on the V-ID bill ...

1) The legislation does not provide any alternatives to photo identification examples of identification that will no longer be acceptable to voter include student id cards, Medicaid/Medicare cards, expired driver’s licenses, expired passports, expired military id cards, birth certificates, official government letters, and employer id cards even if issued by a governmental entity.


9) Implementing redistricting plans and extremely strict photo id laws right before a Presidential election is a recipe for disaster in voter confusion.

The people most impacted by this bill will be students, (those who have) recently married (or) recently moved, very low income, elderly, legal immigrants, handicapped, (and) mainly urban dwellers who don't drive a car. These groups all lean Democratic so the Republicans count this bill as a success, getting any edge possible for elections.

And John Tanner, on why the V-ID bill will not withstand a court challenge.

Sunday Funnies

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The final Countdown

Keith Olbermann was MSNBC's most popular personality and single-handedly led its transformation to an outspoken, left-leaning cable news network in prime time. Despite that, he often seemed to be walking on a tightrope with his job. Friday night, it snapped.

Olbermann returned from one last commercial break on "Countdown" to tell viewers it was his last broadcast, and read a James Thurber short story in a three-minute exit statement. Simultaneously, MSNBC e-mailed a statement that "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract." The network thanked him and said, "we wish him well in his future endeavors."

Neither MSNBC President Phil Griffin, Olbermann nor his manager responded to requests to explain an exit so abrupt that Olbermann's face was still being featured on an MSNBC promotional ad 30 minutes after he had said goodbye.

The shock and awe was apparent in our household as well as everywhere else online I reached for details. Josh Marshall, who had been on the program in the first segment, was no less taken aback than everyone else.

No leaks, even with what must have been a late-in-the-day decision. They all kept a damn good secret, didn't they?

Various reports have Olbermann being let go because of Comcast's swallowing of NBC Universal earlier in the week, that he got fired because he said no to another  extension of his contract ($30 million for four years, signed in 2008 to make sure he was with the network through the 2012 election), and/or that he quit because Jeff Zucker was also shown the door in the wake of the Comcast-NBC merger. Anderson Cooper led his 9 pm (Central) broadcast on CNN with the news and reaction, most of it indicating that KO's mercurial personality had as much to do with his departure as anything else.

I would believe any of those versions. I would also observe that one thing MSNBC has been very good at over the years is throwing out their top talent if it doesn't toe their line. See Donahue, Phil and Banfield, Ashleigh and Shuster, David for evidence.

I'm a huge fan and I'll miss Countdown, but I'm not too concerned about KO's future and not just because money isn't the be-all-and-end-all for the dude (MSNBC is paying him his remaining contracted $14 mil). In six months -- after his non-compete expires -- he'll have an hour on Oprah's network, or HBO or someplace else where they aren't afraid of the brutal truth. He'll be wielding another very large, very loud megaphone, tormenting the Right into another derangement syndrome simply by relentlessly exposing their lies and hypocrisy.

And the same goes for Maddow, and Schultz and O'Donnell and Seder and Uyger and Stein and ...

Enjoy your sabbatical, Keith, and we'll see you when you get back.


Friday’s separation agreement between MSNBC and Mr. Olbermann includes restrictions on when he can next lead a television show and when he can give interviews about the decision to end his association with the news channel.


The decision was completed one year to the day from the last time NBC decided to end a relationship with an on-air star: Conan O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien agreed in the deal not to start up a new television show for nine months, and not to grant interviews for five months. The executives involved in the discussions with Mr. Olbermann said his agreement was not dissimilar to Mr. O’Brien’s.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Texas budget cluster

The news coming out of Austin is so bad it is truly unfathomable.

A Sugar Land prison unit would be closed, funding for Brazosport Community College would be eliminated and thousands of jobs would be cut under a base budget presented late Tuesday night to state lawmakers dealing with a massive shortfall and the prospect of no new revenue this session.

The budget proposes nearly $5 billion less for public education below the current base funding. It is also $9.8 billion less than what is needed to cover current funding formulas, which includes about 170,000 additional students entering the public school system during the next two-year budget cycle. Pre-kindergarten would be scaled back.

Higher education funding, including student financial aid, would be slashed.

The proposal wouldn't provide funding for all the people projected to be eligible for the Medicaid program and would slash Medicaid reimbursement rates for health care providers.

Community supervision programs would be cut and a Sugar Land prison unit would be closed. Funding would be eliminated for four community colleges including Brazosport near Lake Jackson.

Thousands of state jobs would be cut.

The state wants to sell the land where the Fort Bend minimum security facility is located to developers. Let's pick it up from the TexTrib:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, laid out the first grim round of proposed cuts on Wednesday — aimed at balancing the budget without new taxes or tapping the Rainy Day Fund — even some of his Republican colleagues couldn't stifle their objections. House Democrats went a step further, calling the cuts "akin to asking an anorexic person to lose more weight."

Pitts didn't sugarcoat the proposed cuts, which strike a potentially devastating blow to public education and health care, eliminate 9,000 state jobs and shutter two state institutions for people with disabilities, one prison unit and three Texas Youth Commission lock-ups. He acknowledged the cuts are painful, and that this budget proposal slashes every state function that isn't a completely necessary service ...

No new taxes, no existing tax increases, no using the Rainy Day fund, but every state fee that you can think of -- and many you haven't -- is going up. No more sales tax holidays. Traffic violation fees to the state increase 50%. Vehicle license fees, vehicle registration fees, vehicle inspection fees, driver license renewal fees, hunting and fishing license fees, state park admission fees ... on and on.

Even the Republicans are whining about the budget cuts.

No-new-taxes and limited government may be a GOP refrain, but not necessarily when implemented in Republican lawmakers' backyards.

Three of four GOP lawmakers whose community colleges would lose state funding under a starting-point, bare-bones budget proposal publicly decried the proposed losses Wednesday.

Their worries joined broader concerns by Democrats over the proposal that would meet a budget shortfall estimated to be at least $15 billion without new revenue, instead relying on cuts in areas including public and higher education and health and human services.

"Reality has set in today, members. We have seen what the budget is going to look like, and we've got to go from now campaigning to governing this state of Texas," said Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, whose district includes Ranger College, one of those slated to lose state funding. "To me, we've gotten off on a wrong foot."

He called the college-closing proposal "the height of irresponsibility."

Considering that Republicans have been in control of the Texas Senate since 1996, and the House since 2003, and Keffer himself has been in Austin since '96 ... who do you think he's talking about?

The community college flap is a telling slice of the debate to come as school districts, teachers, groups that advocate for vulnerable Texans, lawmakers and others gauge the effect of the budget shortfall. ...

The proposal provides no new funding for growth in any area, including public and higher education or Medicaid, Pitts noted. One school finance expert, Lynn Moak, said the public education cutbacks could cost 100,000 school district jobs over two years.

The only thing that was spared the knife was border security.

"We're already as a state 50th in per capita spending, so you've got to ask yourself when you see a base budget like this, at what point is this budget akin to asking an anorexic person to lose more weight?" he asked.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said, "The leadership has said that we want less government and we want to balance this budget through reduction. … Texans, whether you're old - seniors - whether you're young, in between, you're going to feel the pain. This the paradigm they've created. And now the question is whether or not Texans find that acceptable."

Rural Texas will be hammered the hardest by this budget, as the state and county governments are typically one of the largest -- if not the largest -- employer. Rural Texas went overwhelmingly for the Republicans in 2010.

Thus, Texans who voted for the GOP are getting exactly what they voted for. Texans who did not vote in the last election are also getting it. Hard.

The next two years of this debacle may teach some of them their folly. Then again, with the quality of Texas public education already poor and getting worse, they still may not learn the lesson.

Kuffner has a easy-to-digest list of the budget cuts, some of which are actually good ideas. The NYT's "What's the Matter With Texas?" has four point/counterpoint op-eds from Texas experts (if you count Talmadge Heflin as one of those, that is). And the Legislative Study Group has a five-page summary (.pdf) detailing how the budget cuts will affect Texans, which is the easiest and best resource currently available. Print it out, make a few extra copies, and take it to your next club meeting.

And keep in mind: this is what a very large majority of Texans voted for. They have, in fact, been voting for it for several years now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joe Leiberman's Retirement Party

He partially redeemed himself with his support of DADT, but he was smart enough to read the writing on the wall: Joementum long ago turned into Joenertia. One strongly held opinion that matches mine:

My corner of Connecticut was covered in ice today, until news broke of Sen. Joe Lieberman's impending retirement. Magically, a warm glow spread. It was a delicious feeling: the end of the reign of the politician I despise most.

Why do I loathe, loathe, loathe my 68-year-old four-term senator? My feelings are all the stronger for being fairly irrational. Lieberman's views are closer to mine than many politicians on whom I don't expend one iota of emotional energy. This, of course, is his power: He never loses his power to disappoint. Then there is the spectacle of it all: After each act of grand or petty betrayal, each time he turns on his former supporters, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration came back begging for more. Throughout the last Congress, he never let anyone forget he was the 60th vote.

Opposed the public option, supported the war in Iraq (he was on teevee yesterday saying Saddam threatened his neighbors and had WMDs), endorsed McCain, spoke at the GOP convention, joined the Republican caucus after that, switched back to the Dems after Obama was elected in order to keep his committee chairmanship.

It's always been all about him, and that's what I disliked the most about the man. Chris Murphy has announced as a candidate, and it will be a great day when we have a real Democrat in that seat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Senate stirrings

On the day that Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, a new poll shows Ron Paul in a dead heat with David Dewhurst for the GOP primary's US Senate nomination. Let's go to Politics Daily for the excerpt...

On a call with conservative bloggers Wednesday morning, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz announced he would seek the GOP nomination for the seat.

Cruz told the bloggers he was letting them hear his plans first because they will be at the "frontier" of this race.

Now that's what you call sucking up. Cruz is at the very back of the pack as far as name recognition goes, to say nothing of experience. His single claim to respect from the establishment comes in the form of a million-dollar war chest, raised when he was planning on running for Texas Attorney General before Greg Abbott got cock-blocked by Kay Bailey's resignation two-step over a year ago. But Cruz makes up for his shortcomings with inflammatory Tea-ish rhetoric:

During the call, Cruz called President Obama "the most radical president ever to occupy the White House," and said the election is about "which candidate is best prepared to stand up and fight to stop the Obama agenda."

Yawn. This PPP poll bears out that Cruz has a loooong way to go to get credible in the GOP primary. It's the one that has Dr. No on the lead.

If Rep. Ron Paul decides to seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison, he would become an instant frontrunner, a new poll found.

The Public Policy Polling survey showed that Paul, the longtime Lake Jackson congressman and two-time presidential contender, would start the Republican primary race in a statistical tie with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, with other potential candidates in a hypothetical 2012 Senate match-up trailing far behind.

Paul, whose son Rand was elected to the Senate from Kentucky last year, received the backing of 21 percent of Republican voters. Twenty-three percent named Dewhurst, whose personal wealth and name recognition make him a top-tier hopeful, is currently the top pick of 23 percent of GOP voters.

Nobody has mentioned Paul as a contender before today but that will change quickly with this news.

Among other candidates who were tested, Attorney General Greg Abbott polled third at 14 percent, followed by Joe Barton, R-Ennis, 7 percent, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, 6 percent, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, 3 percent, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, 3 percent, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, 3 percent, and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, 1 percent.

I have to say that I still don't think Paul -- or Barton, for that matter --  will make a run, as it means they'd have to give up their seat in the House. But Paul definitely has something to chew on.

Vince shows that Democratic contenders also get swamped in hypothetical matchups, which I would expect to see at this early stage. The numbers barely change among D's and R's. I take this poll as simply a popularity contest of the respective brands.

Dewhurst, for his part, screwed the pooch in his inaugural address yesterday. Paul Burka's comments are nothing short of devastating:

I thought Governor Dewhurst’s speech was all wrong. It was too long, too partisan, too campaign oriented. He had one foot off the platform on the way to Washington.

Sometimes the things he said made no sense at all. Speaking of the early settlers, he said, “Those men and women who made their way to Texas, who settled these unforgiving plains, who sought neither a handout nor a stimulus check — they simply sought freedom.”

Oh, please. Was Stephen F. Austin oppressed in Missouri? Was Davy Crockett in debtors’ prison in Tennessee? Did Jim Bowie face constant harassment in Arkansas? Nobody came to Texas for freedom. They came for cheap land and the chance to make a better life for themselves. Texas is not about noble ideals. It’s about making money.


Dewhurst is following the Perry model: If you rail enough about Washington, you can make people forget about what is — and what is not — happening here. Which is: a humongous shortfall and a leadership that is willing, even eager, to wrap Texas in a fiscal straightjacket and throw it under the bus to benefit their own political ambitions.

His priorities, Dewhurst said, include securing our borders, encouraging more job creation, passing Voter ID, improve our public schools because a quality education gives every child a chance to realize their dreams, continue building a world class transportation system, make healthcare more accessable and more affordable with better medical outcomes at a lower cost by passing reforms that will lead the nation…

Does he think we’re all stupid? Does he think that anti-Washington rhetoric will make us forget that he is going to whack $25 billion out of the budget? There won’t be enough money left to build a farm-to-market road, much less a world-class transportation system. Quality education with 30 kids in an elementary classroom? A more affordable health care system? More affordable for the state, maybe, after Medicaid has been cut to the bone, but not for you and me.

My reading of Dewhurst through the years hasn’t really changed very much. It comes down to this: He wants to do the right thing, but he can never bring himself to do it. He perpetually runs scared, scared of the tea party, scared of Dan Patrick, scared of Rick Perry, scared of the Republican senators, scared of his own better instincts. And so we get speeches like this one, which doesn’t ring true.

No incumbent in Texas has served longer and is more of a blank slate than Dewhurst. The state's most powerful elected official is an empty suit, and that's why he won't make it to the Senate.

And today was supposed to be a day about Michael Williams, but news about his impending resignation and announcement for the Senate has been invisible.  Who knows whether he ceded the cycle to Cruz and Paul, but it seems ignominious that the leaks about him breaking news today turned out to be false.

Tune in tomorrow -- hopefully -- for the Bowtie's response to these developments.

Update: Surprisingly muted ...

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams says he has sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter telling him he will be leaving the commission on April 2 to concentrate on a race for the U.S. Senate. ...

... (B)y giving Perry such advance notice, it will allow the governor to consider whether to replace him on the commission. There is discussion in the Legislature with taking the three-member panel down to one commissioner or possibly combining it with other agencies.

Perry could appoint someone to replace Williams on the commission. That appointee would have to stand for election in 2012 to fill the term through 2014.

Williams said he is not overly worried about the possibility of millionaire Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entering the race.

"One of the lessons of 2010 is that message and the right messenger can trump money," Williams said.

Williams missed an good opportunity to capture some attention with this tepid announcement. Not a good way to start.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Bush family pushback against the Tea Party

Two news items. First, Jeb:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has some stern words for fellow Republicans who have been using harsh language about immigrants. Bush said GOP politicians who have demonized immigrants and opposed proposals such as the DREAM Act — which would provide a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally into the country who excel in school or join the military — are risking a long-term backlash against their party.

Bush is correct, naturally, but to the Teas this is blasphemy. Just read the comments attached to the story. More ...

"It's impossible to imagine that Republican or conservative philosophy could be the majority philosophy if we don't attract more Hispanics to our side," he said.

Bush said that the failure of U.S. immigration enforcement had created a backlash against immigrants, and he said better enforcement was the first step toward passage of policies such as the DREAM Act.

"A great country has to have control of its borders," he said. "If that is done, I can guarantee you that the tone of the immigration debate will change dramatically."

Bush called for "a legalization process — without a doubt" to clarify the status of more than 11 million people currently living illegally in the U.S.

"I think that is policy of common sense, which many conservatives are going to support," he said.

Absolutely laughable in the current environment, isn't it? Give the man points for speaking an inconvenient conservative truth. Then again, what truths are convenient for them?

(That last is teasing, Republicans. Sort of like Olbermann's "Worst Persons", it's humor at your expense. Buck up and take it like a grown-up.)

In other developments the Bush patriarch, Herbert Walker, announced his endorsement for US Senator. It's his old Midland car dealer.

Today, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, a Republican, is announcing the backing of former president George H. W. Bush, who will bestow his endorsement at a 3 p.m. press conference at his Houston office.

Williams has had his eye on Hutchison's seat for a while. He did not lose focus even after Hutchison decided to stay in office during her recent unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, which also received the elder Bush's endorsement.

"We announced in January 2009, and regardless of who was in or not, we've never stopped campaigning since then," Williams told the Tribune on the day Hutchison revealed she would not be seeking re-election next year, leaving the seat open.

I'm sure that great deal he got on a brand-new Dodge Coronet wagon in 1955 had nothing to do with it.

More from Jason Embry at Postcards:

The Bush endorsement could give his campaign a nice boost, particularly since the field is crowded and Williams doesn’t have the statewide name recognition of someone like (David) Dewhurst, who has held statewide office since 1999. A high-profile endorsement can be particularly helpful early in a campaign as a candidate tries to build momentum and attract donors.

Yes, this endorsement has to be interpreted as an insult to the Lite Gov. Bush 41 has traditionally endorsed the mainstream Republican (like Kay Bailey for governor last year). But if only Poppy had picked the other Williams, I could have titled this post "The Bush Family Affirmative Action Initiative". Alas. Maybe W will help me out shortly.

Roger the Dodger is plenty Tea-flavored, but there's a bum rush to starboard aboard the USS Texas GOP and Michael's big fat head is taking up a lot of the space on that side of the deck.  Only Sarah Palin's imprimatur will mean more to the TP than Jim DeMint's, and he's been in the Railroad Commissioner's corner since 2009.

Is it wrong to call Michael Williams a dark horse candidate? Probably, but not for the reason you're thinking.

One last note, from Embry's column:

Meanwhile, Michael Williams is likely to resign from the Railroad Commission this week to focus on his U.S. Senate bid.

Guess who appoints the person to fill his seat until the next election?

MLK Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the MLK holiday as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff wrote about Governor Perry's sanctuary scam and what it says about his priorities.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Perry and his merry band of republicans play to the Tea Party and corporate polluters while the EPA starts doing its job.

Lightseeker over at TexasKaos offers some ideas on how you can become a civility warrior, starting today. Hint: think leading with good values and standing up for what you want among your friends and colleagues. Check out: How to inject civility when Uncle Joe Starts channeling Glen Beck.

This week, McBlogger takes a look at No Labels.

Letters From Texas published a powerful guest editorial from Jeff Rotkoff, on the issue of tea partiers' claims that America is a tyrant state.

Bay Area Houston has a perfect picture of Palin, but not for children.

At Capitol Annex, Vince takes a look at the potential contenders for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat now that her retirement has thrown the doors wide open for the 2012 primary.

After a two-part investigation last year on one town's air quality problems, WhosPlayin was happy to report that the town of Flower Mound is increasing the scope and frequency of its air quality monitoring program as complaints continue by neighbors of natural gas facilities. A Lewisville neighborhood group facing gas well development in residential neighborhoods quickly followed suit, announcing increased testing and testing for sulfur compounds.

On the scene for the 82nd legislative session's opening day, PDiddie managed to defy the Capitol's tech support department with laptop connectivity issues, and then quickly ran his Android's battery down Tweeting. Still, he managed a Brains and Eggs post about the day 24 hours after the fact.

TXsharon catches the Big Gas Mafia telling the truth. Gas does migrate up from the formation and it does so in a big way. Read about it on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

After reading a Texas tea party blogger who had just attended a Tea Party meeting, Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the Tea Party vision of America. Will English-only require a federal language bereaucracy? Will deportation of all undocumented persons mean government raids in our homes? Does the Ten Commandments posted at every public building mean that Christianity can't thrive without government support? Will repeal of healthcare reform allow insurance companies to once again cancel the policies of people who get sick?

TexasVox reviews the showdown over greenhouse gas permits at an EPA public meeting in Dallas. Over 100 local residents showed up to support the EPA and the Clean Air Act, demanding action on climate change because Rick Perry and TCEQ refuse to follow federal law.

George at The Texas Blue had been taking some time off post-election... but the reaction to events in Arizona finally pissed him off enough to write. (And just in time for the new legislative session!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Return of the Jet-i

I don't really have a favorite in this game (about to kick off) but I thought this was clever.

Legend to the cast of characters here.

Who do you like in the Super Bowl?

Grandma says "toldja so"

(Former) Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn did not win friends five years ago when she warned Gov. Rick Perry and state lawmakers they were writing the "largest hot check in Texas history" during a tax overhaul that resulted in lower property taxes and a revised business tax.

Strayhorn told them their plan would fall about $23 billion short over a five-year period.

Now, five years later, state leaders are staring at an estimated budget shortfall of nearly $27 billion over the next two years.


At the time, Perry rejected Strayhorn's warning — saying she underestimated the tax reform and ignored economic growth from property tax cuts.

He also said at the time: "Future legislators are going to have the opportunity to be working with some numbers that are more current than what they're working at today — and some honest numbers."

The governor's office declined to comment about the accuracy of Strayhorn's April 2006 warning.


Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said the "Texas economy continues to grow steadily ahead of the nation, and the comptroller's biennial revenue estimate, as expected, is also reflective of the national recession's lingering impact on state revenue."

The projected shortfall reflects the amount of revenue needed to maintain current services, including the cost of educating an additional 170,000 school children during the next two years.

Perry, however, does not address the cost of current services.

"I think we have a budget of $76.5 billion and we're going to live with that. It's only a budget hole when somebody has wished that they had more money," the governor said last week.

So out of one side of his mouth Governor Smirky McHaircut proclaims the Texas economy the envy of the nation, and out of the other blames the effects of the Great Depression of 2010 and its impact on the Texas economy as the budget culprit. I just don't think he can flip-flop fast enough to have it both ways.

Let's sample a bit more from the article, this time from aspiring US Senator Dewhurst:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said resurrecting Strayhorn's five-year-old forecast is "old news."

At the time, Dewhurst called huge budget shortfall projections "hypothetical and speculative."

He now says he knew that revenue projections from the revised business franchise tax "were inflated" and told Senate members in closed-door caucus meetings at the time that the tax would not perform as advertised.

Dewhurst said he also believed at the time that "we would grow out of it by now."

The lieutenant governor blamed the nation's economic collapse in 2008 for contributing to the state's projected budget shortfall today.


"There is not a $27 billion deficit, and I don't think there is even a $15 billion deficit," Dewhurst said.

Denial is the first stage. Do we have time for these men to get through anger, bargaining, and depression before they can accept reality? The session only lasts 140 days...

Dewhurst's duplicity -- together with a legislature that will demolish an already badly beaten Texas educational system, not to mention a social safety net in tatters -- should ruin his chances for higher office.

Unfortunately it may not.

While "moderate" Republicks will fall over themselves to fall in line behind The Dew, TeaBaggers should be watching him closely, as he is demonstrating nearly perfect Beltway-GOP predilections for deficit spending and ignoring reality. He's exactly the kind of Kay Bailey model they despise. But are they capable of ending his hopes for moving up the food chain?

Yes, I believe that they are. Whether they select one of the Williams sisters or "Mic" Patrick, I think they are up to the task of frustrating a long line of aspiring office-climbers (who are already lining up) by denying Dewhurst the Republican nomination for Senate next year.

And nothing would please me more than to have the most ridiculous nominee possible in 2012 get beaten by a Democrat ... just like what happened in Nevada, and Delaware, and Colorado in 2010.

Sunday Not So Funnies

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maybe she means it this time *updates*

She still has about a year to, you know, change her mind ...

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced today that she will retire at the end of her current term, quashing speculation that she would run for a fourth full term in the U.S. Senate.

In an open letter to Texans, Hutchison said she wanted to live "full-time in Texas with my family" and was "forever grateful for the privilege of working for you in the United States Senate."

Hutchison's announcement will set off a wild scramble for the Senate seat the Dallas Republican first won in a 1993 special election against interim Sen. Bob Krueger, D-New Braunfels.

Hutchison said her early announcement "should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be."

She pledged to continue carrying out her duties for the next two years "with the same vigor that I have employed during my Senate service."

Hutchison pledged to use her remaining time in the Senate "to fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt, the government takeover of our health care system, and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy."

Oh just go ahead and walk away now, Kay.

Hutchison had promised to resign from her seat when she announced her 2010 primary challenge against Republican Gov. Rick Perry, but she changed her mind during the campaign.

"I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state," she said.

The disadvantage was you sticking around, honey.

A large field of candidates is likely to seek the seat held for the past four decades by Hutchison and legendary Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Houston.

Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp and former Houston Mayor Bill White are potential Democratic prospects. Republicans who have expressed interest in the seat include Secretary of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and state Sen. Florence Shapiro. Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has not announced his plans but is considered a strong contender for the job. (emphasis mine)

Dewhurst has responded that he is too focused on the legislative session to concentrate on this right now. He can only think about one thing at a time, after all.

Update: Dewhurst wants the job so bad he's started imitating Kay's shilly-shally...

Less than three hours after telling a luncheon with the Capitol news media that he wouldn't think of running for the U.S. Senate until after the Texas Legislature ends in May, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced that he will consider running.

The Williams twins are all in already. I anticipate that the two Republican ladies will jump in when they think the water is fine. Sharp has clearly stated his intentions as far back as March of 2010 ...

I want to thank everybody who came to support me in San Antonio last night. You confirmed to me that I am ready to win this Senate seat tomorrow, or in 2012. Thanks again, and I hope to see all of you again soon.

... but I don't think White will make this race. (Update: Sure enough, he declines.) The Perry campaign accomplished a real smear job on him -- as they did KBH in the primary -- and I just don't think he wants that job anyway. No word from 2006 Democratic nominee Barbara Radnofsky on whether she will enter the fray.

Keep in mind the Green Party has ballot access and will field a candidate in this contest.

Other Republicans I expect will likely make a go are state Sen. Dan Patrick. His Texas radio network gives him much more name recognition than many would think, and he is a Tea Party darling. People like Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and solicitor general Ted Cruz are longshots due to low name recognition and a lack of craziness that the TP prefers.

There may be a few surprise candidates on both sides but nobody who might be considered completely unpredictable. It's nice to see that the 2012 campaign has officially kicked off.

Update: the National Journal drops Chet Edwards' name, and The Hill's Brent Budowsky suggests San Antonio mayor Joaquin Castro.  Both men are well and good but don't hold much chance at gaining either the nomination nor the seat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yesterday's opening session

Technical difficulties yesterday and a full business day today kept this post from appearing timely, so you might pretend it's 24 hours ago and the 82nd Texas Legislative Session has just begun, with the near-unanimous election of Joe Straus as Speaker, a special proclamation issued by Governor Perry, and some broad committee work assigned before adjourning.

The Legislature began its work Tuesday with a decidedly Republican look and signs of a rightward lurch.

With a slew of newcomers, the GOP has enhanced clout. Influenced by the tea party and an overwhelming House majority, Republicans are poised to cut the budget deeply and push for long-stalled measures on voter identification, immigration, abortion and property rights.

After a fractious fight over whether Speaker Joe Straus was conservative enough, the House re-elected him by a wide margin.

They almost managed to do so by acclamation, but Leo Berman objected, calling for a recorded vote. The count was 132 ayes, 15 nays, and two "present not voting"s.

The no voters were Berman, Phil King, Wayne Christian, Dan Flynn, Bill Zedler, and these ten GOP freshmen: Van Taylor, Jim Landtroop, Jodie Laubenberg, David Simpson, Tan Parker, Ken Paxton, James White, Charles Perry, Cindy Burkett, and Erwin Cain. Rookie legislators Jason Isaac and Bryan Hughes were the "pnv"s, and Lyle Larson abstained.

The five old red dogs know precisely what the consequences are in their defiance, but the green peas are clueless. To vote against an incumbent speaker in your very first action while he's riding a landslide to re-election is no way to get a good committee assignment, to get your bills a favorable hearing in committee, or any other plum from the Speaker's basket.

Frankly I'm surprised that Sarah Davis was smart enough to figure this out. Thank God that moron isn't my representative.

While the governor is not in favor of Arizona-styled legislation criminalizing the appearance of undocumented persons -- TeaBaggers favor this and Berman and Debbie Riddle have already pre-filed bills to its effect -- he had to throw a sop to the TP with his "sanctuary city" baloney. Naturally he is completely unaware that he is a big fat flipflopper:

Perry was right the first time: “The law turns law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe.”

So, Perry was indeed for sanctuary policies (including for state troopers) before he was against them. Apparently he now believes that taking law enforcement officers away from their existing duties does not pose a danger to citizens.

Here's video of the governor embarrassing himself on the issue, courtesy the Texas Tribune:

And Perry also has declared the Rainy Day Fund off-limits, which makes the $27-billion-dollar hole the Lege has to crawl out of that much steeper.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden gave a highly unusual speech when he accepted the position of Senate President Pro-Tem, in which he said that education and health and human services would have to be cut to balance the budget. He also said that the franchise tax would probably have to be overhauled. It has never generated the revenue it was projected to and its failure has exacerbated problems with public school funding in Texas.

The state's budget shortfall is massive. Operating under the assumption the state will spend no more during 2012-2013 than it did during 2010-2011, the shortfall is about $15 billion. The Center for Public Policy Priorities calculates that with population growth and increasing demand for state services, that state agencies would need about $99 billion to maintain the current level of service, in which case the budget shortfall balloons to about $27 billion.

TexTrib had the best live-blog and slideshow. Their coverage stood far out from everyone else's. Vince's new-look Capitol Annex delves deeper into the budget deficit/revenue estimates, and Kuffner aggregates those who were up-to-date, unlike me.

This opening day's attendance from the public was considerably down from 2006 and 2008, with even TeaBag Nation not all that well represented. Here's a couple of photos I took after the opening session had ended.

A protest I joined:

A high school mariachi band from Dallas performing in the Rotunda:

And Brad Pritchett's Facebook posting provided some hilarity:

(H)ad an interesting day at the Capitol. Favorite part being the Tea Partiers wearing misspelled shirts, proving that education in Texas IS truly lacking. Them trying to correct it by marking a white printed letter out in black Sharpie was just icing on the cake.

The misspell was the anti-Straus people were wearing shirts that read, "Oust Rhino Straus". Well he isn't an actual zoo animal Rhino, it's RINO as in Republican In Name Only. The fact that they started marking out the "H" was amazing. That and the guy who thought he was dressed as Paul Revere and was actually Napoleon.

There were three "Paxton for Speaker" Tea-shirts in Jessica Farrar's office, apparently for the taking, but I passed. My dogs have enough chew toys and fight rags as it is.

Special thanks to Rep. Farrar and her staffer Sarah Melecki for accommodating this non-constituent on her bus over and back yesterday, along with the food and drink and schwag.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The 82nd Texas Legislature: Horror Show or Freak Show?

In a Texas House GOP caucus vote this afternoon -- about the same time Tom DeLay learned his fate, in fact -- Joe Straus secured 70 commitments of the 100 members who attended.

Straus is a traditional mainstream Republican who calls himself a fiscal conservative. His opponents, however, do not trust him to lead a chamber amid expectations that lawmakers aggressively will pursue anti-immigration bills, Voter ID legislation and stronger anti-abortion bills (emphasis mine).

I'll be in Austin tomorrow to document the beginning of the atrocities. Follow me on Twitter (link in the right-hand column) for as-they-happen updates or check in here for the occasional in-depth opinion.

How much is three years' worth of soap-on-a-rope?

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay today was sentenced to three years in prison for his conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit political money laundering. He also was sentenced to five years in prison on a money laundering conviction, but the judge probated that to 10 years of community supervision.

DeLay was taken into custody by Travis County deputies, but will be released on $10,000 bail pending appeal.

DeLay pleaded for himself before visiting District Judge Pat Priest.

"I don't feel remorseful for something I don't think I did," DeLay told the judge.

Yes, he'll bond out on appeal and his chances are much better with the Republicans at that level, but today goes down as a good day for justice.

Even as Republicans in both Washington and Austin prepare to overreach once more, a ray of light on a cold day in Deep-In-The-Hearta is enough to warm my heart just a little. Matt Angle at the LSP reminds us, though ...

Given the confirmation of a $27 billion Texas budget deficit, a purely partisan Republican vote on the State House Speaker, and the tragedy in Arizona, the sentencing today of Tom DeLay for felony money laundering may seem like yesterday’s news. In reality, the timing is fitting and relevant. DeLay’s extreme and ruthless partisanship has imprinted on Texas Republicans and his style will be on display today and throughout the legislative session.

“Whether DeLay spends 24 minutes, 24 days or 24 months in custody, his punishment will not undo the damage he has done to hundreds of thousands of Texas voters," said Matt Angle, head of the Lone Star Project.

“Tom DeLay – with enthusiastic help from Rick Perry, David Dewhurst and the Bush Department of Justice – not only robbed Hispanic and African American citizens of their voting strength, but made all other Texans subject to an extreme brand of partisanship that is even worse than Washington's.

“There is little reason to feel comfort in justice being served to Tom DeLay today. His corrupt, partisan legacy lives on in Austin and is being practiced enthusiastically by the Republicans currently in control in Texas.”

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is keeping all of the victims of the Arizona shooting in its thoughts as it brings you this week's roundup.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part for the Left has misgivings about the border patrol shooting at teenagers because they are throwing rocks. The hate mongering expressed in the immigration bills for the 82nd Texas Legislature will only add fuel to the fire.

Off the Kuff writes about the upcoming legislative battle over class size limits.

Bay Area Houston gives the bird back to the Harris County GOP. (With video.)

Hydraulic fracturing brings PEAK WATER to the Eagle Ford Shale as residents find their water tables dropping. A resident found Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS and contacted TXsharon about their flammable water.

This week on Left of College Station Teddy covers Texas Congressional District 17's new Republican congressman Bill Flores' first days on the job in Congress. Also, as the 82nd Texas Legislature prepares to gavel into session facing a possible $25 billion budget shortfall, Teddy asks what's the matter with Texas?

BossKitty at TruthHugger is watching with amazement the current events unfolding after the Arizona tragedy. The venom being spewed by extreme groups toward the victims and praise for the shooter is absolutely incredible. BossKitty tries to unravel the reasons these events are now mainstream in this country in the op-ed Wounded America On Life Support.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees the republican priority: cronies, cronies, cronies.

nytexan at BlueBloggin looks at who we have become: Arizona Shooting, Political Discord and American Disrespect. Americans should be ashamed of what we have become: gun-toting, hate-mongering Neanderthals. We are continually pointing fingers at each other, continually shouting, continually spewing incorrect information, continually exhibiting disrespect. This has now become a national pastime.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted the fourth annual version of his Martin Luther King reading & reference list. It is the best such reference on the web.

Texas is not like Arizona, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes. In Texas we don't arrest people for looking "illegal", or let Medicaid patients die because the governor doesn't want to pay the bill, or shoot Congresswomen in front of supermarkets. Yet.

WhosPlayin is disgusted by a city council that refused to table a vote on 12 gas wells and a wastewater facility when the operator submitted a weaselly P.R. document instead of a real emissions reduction plan. It's time to replace some councilmen, because one is an illiterate fool and the other is unethical enough to push an ordinance backed by his employer.

After the Texas Eagle Forum weighed in on the House Speaker's race, Letters From Texas weighed in on the shenanigans of the Texas Eagle Forum.

Over at TexasKaos, libbyshaw, has a reality pill for Rick Perry and his minions. Check out The Great Texas Failure: A Smoke and Mirrors Economy.

TexasVox has a complete rundown of last week's vote to allow the nation's radioactive waste to come to Texas. Long story short? We got screwed.