Saturday, May 28, 2005

 

EXPANSION OF GAMBLING DIES

Plans to expand gambling were stopped this week in the Senate. A
proposal to expand gambling into the Lottery Commission sunset bill
wasn’t able to make the time deadline early Thursday morning. The
senate observed a 2 a.m. deadline for the Senate to pass its final
legislation.

The Lottery Commission sunset legislation HB 1434 would have
continued the current operations of the Lottery Commission for another
12 years, while increasing the size of the commission panel from three
to five members and alter a variety of regulatory changes. The
amendment offered by Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria ), would have
opened the door for a statewide referendum to legalize lottery terminals
at venues across the state.

In addition county gaming districts would be established. County and
city governments would split a percentage that allowed for the counties
and cities to obtain 2% and the state 6 %. The proposal could have
potentially raised an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue in the first year
after passage, and an estimated $5.4 billion by the fifth year. Among
those considered for county gaming districts include: Jefferson County,
Travis County, Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, Laredo, El
Paso, South Padre Island and San Antonio.
 

TOP 10% RULE REMAINS

On Wednesday, legislators decided to postpone further debate on the top 10% law
until the next legislative session. With the session in its final days, not enough
time was left to iron out differences between the House and Senate. However,
lawmakers have pledged to work toward a resolution in two years when the
Legislature meets again.

Current law entitles Texas students graduating in the top 10% of their high school
class automatic admission to any public college or university in the state. This law
was enacted in 1997 to promote racial and ethnic diversity after a court ruling
banned the use of affirmative action in admissions. However, many legislators
believe that the current law needs to be revised to address capacity problems at the
University of Texas at Austin. Senate legislation authored by Senator Royce West
(D-Dallas) would require high school students to take more rigorous classes to
qualify for admission based on a top 10% ranking.

A proposal approved by the House would allow universities to limit the number of
students accepted under this law to half of their freshman classes, admitting the
highest-ranking students first. The rest of the top 10% students and other students
not in the top 10% would be considered for admission based on a broad review of
their academic and personal backgrounds. The two houses were unable to reach
an agreement on their two plans and will continue the issue in 2007.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

 

STORMY SUNDAY

This Sunday's House Calendar is the most action packed of the session. It includes Local Option Election on mixed beverages without a petition drive; Unbundling of electric utilities; Securitization of the nonbypassable delivery rates; PUC Sunset and all that stuff with cable, phone and electricity; Parental Consent.

Should be very interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2005

 

GOVERNOR'S PLAN FOR PROBATION REFORM REJECTED

Texas is looking to reform its probation under HB 2193 by Representative Jerry Madden (R- Richardson). The house bill met some resistance from the Governor's office Thursday, when Governor Rick Perry offered his own last minute plan to reform Texas' probation system to the Senate.
The major changes that the governor chose included: Probationers could still have had their case reviewed for early release once they completed half their sentence, but a judge could not have approved that release unless the offenders had committed no new crimes other than a misdemeanor; if they had paid all court costs, fines and restitution; and if early termination would "not increase the likelihood of harm to the victim or the public." Also, according to committee aides, the alternative dropped wording that established a pilot program to divert nonviolent offenders into special treatment programs rather that sending them to prison. The new developments arose when a new analysis showed that that the plan will save much less than originally predicted.

Instead of saving an estimated $44 million, as originally estimated, the probation reform would save only $6.6 million over the next two years. The discrepancy resulted from figures that were based on the assumption that the new law would be retroactive, and affect thousands of people already on probation.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee rejected the Governor's plan and proceeded with the House version. Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D-Houston), believes that HB 2193 is still a reasonable bill that will greatly improve our current system, although there is a potential possibility that Governor Perry might veto the House Bill if it doesn’t meet his satisfaction. Senator Whitmire plans to bring the probation reform bill to a floor vote in the Senate early next week and is quite confident that is has enough votes to pass. A major focus of this legislation is to reduce the probationers who are sent to state prisons for technical violations, or infractions.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

Why Are The Talking Heads Covering Michael Jackson And Not This Story??

Click Here For Timesonline story.

May 18, 2005 Galloway v the US Senate: transcript of statementBy Times OnlineGeorge Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

George Galloway after arriving in the Senate committee room to give evidence (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein. "As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce. "You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.
"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

SB 408 Who Will Get The Gold Mine and Who Will Get The Shaft

SB 408 was suppose to be a Public Utility Commission Sunset bill. Unless this Point of Order is Sustained,you will witness a very interesting battle on the House Floor. Millions of Dollars are on the line. Will it go to the cable companies or the telephone companies. Two hour to rule on a rather common Point of Order! I would love to be in that room. AWH Texas Politics.

Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Will President Vicente Fox Cut My Yard Because I Don't Want Too

The AP Reports a disturbing report on Mexico's President.

Today President Vicente Fox refused to apologize for his comment regarding illegal Mexican workers in the United States.

Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said Mexican and foreign news media have misinterpreted the remark as a racial slur. He said the president was speaking in defense of Mexican migrants as they come under attack by the new U.S. immigration measures that include a wall along the U.S.-California border.

Stung by the U.S. crackdown on illegal immigrants, many Mexicans including Mexico City's archbishop said Fox was just stating a fact."The president was just telling the truth," said Celedonio Gonzalez, a 35-year-old carpenter who worked illegally in Dallas for six months in 2001.

"Mexicans go to the United States because they have to. Blacks want to earn
better wages, and the Mexican because he is illegal takes what they pay him."

Fox made the comment Friday during a public appearance in Puerto Vallarta, saying: "There's no doubt that Mexican men and women full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."
 

Whats taking so long?

2:30pm

Tray Martinez-Fisher had a six part point of order that would have killed the bill and send it back to committee. Considerable research had to be done to back up over ruling his point of order. Tray was informrd that his point would be over ruled.

Hartnett has been under pressure by leadership to not run with his abortions amendments. But he is commited to this issue. He will most likly accept a couple of amendments to the amendments to soften it a little.

Senfronia has raised a point oforder on the bill because the speaker over ruled her point on Hartnett's amendment. This point was also overruled. He has two amendments one regarding trimester abortions and the other on parental consent

Sunday, May 15, 2005

 

Week of May 9, 2005

Dear Friends,

A great deal of legislation has passed through the House in the past few weeks. Similarly the Senate has been burning the midnight oil assuring that both chambers will be working to create effective legislation together. Thursday was the deadline to pass house bills on the house floor. Starting Monday through the end of session the House will focus only on Senate bills. Some of the legislation that I have been working on this week includes the passage of HB 1404. This legislation would establish a cost of $25 fee for any document over twenty five pages the county clerk drafts. These fees will help offset the costs and expenses incurred by the county. In the upcoming weeks we will wait to see the status of what will happen with the State budget. This important legislation will have a huge impact on the policy that will be implemented in the future. I hope that you will continue to read, use and let me know your thoughts on this sessions' Capitol Weekly.

School Finance Bill Approved By Senate

House-Senate Agreement Possible Before End of Session. Concerns about the ability of the House and Senate to agree on a school finance solution were raised on Monday when the Senate failed to move forward with their version of the reform bill. Contrary to previous analyses, new analysis of House Bill 2 by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn showed that the Houston and Dallas school districts would actually lose money under the proposed Senate plan. As a result, senators from those areas chose to withhold their support of the bill, halting the scheduled floor debate. On Wednesday, however, the Senate finally approved their versions of the school finance bill HB 2 and the tax bill HB 3. The Senate version of HB 3 was passed first and raises consumption and business taxes
to pay for a cut in school property taxes.

The companion school finance bill HB 2 would increase education spending by
about $2.8 billion over two years, raise teacher salaries, and require schools to start
the academic year after Labor Day. The Senate removed a barrier between
themselves and the House by voting to keep school property taxes in the hands of
local school boards rather than creating a state property tax. However, other
barriers still exist. The House and Senate will have to work together to pass a bill
that they can both agree on before the end of the legislative session on May 30th.


Admission Policies Changed for State Schools

The top 10% rule that has been part of the admissions process in Texas public
school, will undergo serious changes after the Houses vote this week. The House
adjusted the Top 10% rule, saying that universities would not be required to accept
more than 50% of its incoming freshman class based on class rank. The actual bill
HB 2330 referring to the top 10% rule received a great deal of opposition. Many
of the members believed that the bill would reverse the strides that have been
made since the rule was implemented.
Every minority member on the floor of the House supported amendments to the
bill that would only improve the diversity of the universities. One possible
amendment was an effort to address the adjustments that were being made to the
10% rule in HB 2330. The author of HB 2330, Geanie Morison(R-Victoria) was
asked to pull down her bill long enough to consider amendments.
The bill, which now goes to an uncertain future in the Senate, would, in effect, half
that guarantee, opponents said. Officials with the University of Texas at Austin
sought the legislation after 72 percent of students admitted from Texas high
schools for this summer and fall qualified under the top 10 percent law. The controversial law has been credited with diversifying the student bodies of Texas universities. But it also sometimes pitted graduates of wealthy suburban school districts against minority or rural students competing for admission, particularly to UT and Texas A&M. UT
officials argue they need more flexibility in attracting a wide range of students with different talents.

Congrats Grads!!!

This week two of my legislative staffers have equally great accomplishments. Legislative director Nichoals Pyka will graduate this weekend with honors from University of Miami Law School. My long time legislative aide, Susan Fisher, graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern University and has been accepted into UT’s grad. School.

Bingo in Texas might have New Look

Early this week, the Senate passed legislation allowing existing bingo parlors to use electronic terminals for their games. Gambling opponents and some lawmakers worried that the machines were a backdoor effort to expand legalized gambling in Texas.Anti- gambling fervor ruled Thursday night during the House debate over legislation to allow the Texas Lottery Commission to continue operating. Without any debate, the House adopted amendments to ensure that the bingo machines cannot be used to legalize gambling that is currently illegal.

Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) offered an amendment saying the House anguage would prevail over any conflicting language in any other legislation. The Senate proposal, part of a major tax overhaul, had authorized bingo operators to use the device that was defined as an "electronic terminal with input capabilities and touch screen or other monitors that may be used to play electronic pull- tab bingo." The machines could be portable, upright or built into tabletops. Parental Consent Bill is Killed on the House Floor Under current Texas laws,minors only have to notify a parent or guardian that they plan to have an abortion. The bill also would have required the state to publish, annually,information submitted by courts that hear waiver requests, including how many waivers were granted by each of nine judicial regions.

The bill was dropped because one of the more than 1,000 witness forms collected from people who testified about the House Bill 1212 in the House State Affairs Committee, did not include the name of the committee, as required. Proponents argue that minors aren't able to have any other medical procedures without parent's consent.

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