Ruby is Best for Texas 6th Congressional District

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Toll & ID Schemes Unravel - Lies, Deceit and Betrayal - Part 4


Photos used by permission of Sal Costello, David Stall, Pam Thompson, Tatum Evers, Tom Blackwell and Marilyn Short.

Part 4 of this series is intended to be a primer for keeping the fire turned up under elected officials and for keeping the light shining on dirty, underhanded deeds. This journal is about resistence that is occurring in Texas. However, it chronicles a small segment of current day American Society. From New York to Pennsylvania to Chicago and Indiana and Colorado the same forces are operating contrary to the public good. The same lies are being told. The same tactics are being use.

There are effective ways to combat fat cats with deep pockets who are lickin' their greasy chops in anticipation of big payoffs at the expense of ordinary citizens, business men and women, farmers, ranchers, truckers and children. The battle isn't won yet in Texas but recently there have been some squirmishes which have left the fat cats ducking for cover and compliant politicans yelling about repentance and know understanding what they were doing!

RULE No. 1: My enemies enemy is my friend.
Forget about partisan differences and identify neighbors and leaders of other parties who share your distain for private/public partnerships for toll roads, secret negotiations by politicians and bureaucracies, and legislation which benefits a few at the expense of many.

RULE No. 2: Forge coalitions across party lines to encircle the wagons and get the attention of politicians.
Don't hesitate to invite people who agree with you on this (these issues) but usually oppose your position on other issues to go with you to the State Capitol to hearings and to speak with legislators. When citizens from all parties show up and say the same things, some legislators are smart enough to realize that discontent is mounting which may be large enough to unseat them when they face re-election. Even the worse transgressors, when frightened enough, tend to try to start distancing themselves from some of their bills and votes.

RULE No. 3: Don't hesitate to allow Legislators whose performance riles you the most to come on board and do right on this particular issue. You don't have to like them. You need not vote for them. You need not trust them. Let them step across the line and VOTE RIGHT on this issue. Votes count even from scroundrels.

RULE 4: Don't rely on the main stream media to get the word out. Use them when you can but develop other communication tools.

RULE 5: Share, share, share.
Share contacts, forward pertinent e-mail messages, introduce people who share common interests even if they disagree on many other things.

RULE 6: Teach, mentor, and enable.
Everyone doesn't have the same education, skills, or resources. Everyone has something to contribute. Assist, encourage, share, utilize.

RULE 7: Thank people. Thanks is fuel for the battle.
When an elected official makes a correct stand, whether in an interview, at a hearing, or by sponsoring or co-sponsoring or voting on legislation, call, write or e-mail and thank him or her. When a reporter gives fair coverage to the issue, send a thank-you stating your appreciation of the coverage. When you see others leading the charge and contributing to the effort, pat them on the back and tell others what a good job they have done for the cause.

RULE 8: Research, research, research -- verify, verify, verify -- communicate, communicate, communicate.
Email and internet allows us to link our home offices together into a virtual network. Don't hesitate to shout when you need help, are confused, or are overwhelmed. This is a relay race. One carries the torch for a leg or two while other recharge and prepare to step in for the next leg of the journey. The enemy is large with deep pockets and highly motivated by greed. Alone we are defeated. Together we are an army attracting new recruits with fresh resources and skill sets. It isn't about any one person's ego or position. It is about the welfare of humankind. We are each one voice in a mighty chorus.

Below is an Action Alert for NAIS. Tomorrow a similar Action Alert will be posted for Toll Roads. Use this as an example. Even if you are in another State, it shows you how to keep the heat turned up to change the positions of elected officials on oppressive legislation. Most of the content of this Action Alert was written by Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Take Action to Get Anti-NAIS Bills Passed

There are two Anti-NAIS Bills in the Texas House of Representative.
Representative Rose filed HB 3573 which will repeal HB 1361. This is a great development in the fight against NAIS!!! More information is available on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance website: http://farmandranchfreedom.org
You can read the bill on the State of Texas website at: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB3573.
There is a very long road between getting a bill introduced and getting it made into law. Right now, the law in Texas allows the TAHC to make NAIS mandatory at any time. So we must get a bill through the House, Senate, and past the Governor's veto that changes the current law.

The committee substitute of HB 461 and HB 637 would be a big step forward by barring a mandatory program and preventing coercion from being used to force people into it. HB 3573 goes further by repealing the statute that specifically gave TAHC authority for NAIS. But even then, the NAIS issue would not be over because the bill does not stop all the problems with NAIS. In several states, agencies have implemented NAIS through their general powers to protect animal health, and used coercive methods to force people into the program. We must make sure that does not happen in Texas. Please urge your legislators to support all the anti-NAIS bills: HB 461, 637, and 3573.

There is a very long road between getting a bill introduced and getting it made into law. Right now, the law in Texas allows the TAHC to make NAIS mandatory at any time. So we must get a bill through the House, Senate, and past the Governor's veto that changes the current law.

The committee substitute of HB 461 and HB 637 would be a big step forward by barring a mandatory program and preventing coercion from being used to force people into it. HB 3573 goes further by repealing the statute that specifically gave TAHC authority for NAIS. But even then, the NAIS issue would not be over because the bill does not stop all the problems with NAIS. In several states, agencies have implemented NAIS through their general powers to protect animal health, and used coercive methods to force people into the program. We must make sure that does not happen in Texas. Please urge your legislators to support all the anti-NAIS bills: HB 461, 637, and 3573.
Take Action

1) Look at the list of legislators at the end of this alert. If the Representative is a co-author of HB 461, send an email saying thank you. Be sure to put "Thank you for supporting HB 461" in the subject line of the email. And tell your Representative about the new HB 3573.

2) If your Representative is not yet a co-author, call, email, or write, asking that he or she sign on to HB 461, 637, and 3573.

3) Call, write, or email you Senator. Tell him or her that you want a commitment to support HB 461, 637, and 3573 if they come to the Senate.

Tell your friends and relatives to do the same!

TIPS:
Always be polite. Explain your views to the staff person or legislator concisely, and ask them for their opinion in return. Engage them in a dialogue and try to respond to the issues they raise. Offer to follow-up with more information, which we can provide. We gain nothing by antagonizing people or being rude, so remember that you can disagree politely!

In-person visits, calls, and faxed or mailed letters are the most effective methods. If you e-mail your legislator, put what you want in the subject line ("Thank you for supporting HB 461" for example). Legislators get many, many emails every day!

CONTACT INFORMATION:
The tables below include the phone number for each legislator. If you don't know who your legislator is, go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ Contact your State Representative and Senator about HB 461, 637, and 3573.

Take Action Now to Defeat NAIS in Texas

Take Action NOW to HELP DEFEAT the Implementation of Mandatory Animal ID (NAIS): The three Anti-NAIS Bills currently before the Texas Legislature are HB 461, HB 637 and HB 3573.

To email a Texas State Representative: firstname.lastname@house.state.tx.us.
Their mailing addresss and local phone numbers are shown at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Members/Members.aspx?Chamber=H

Representatives who have NOT yet co-authored an Anti-NAIS bill
Please ask the Representatives listed below to sign on to HB 461, 637, and 3573!
District Name Austin Phone No.
1 Stephen Frost (512) 463-0692
2 Dan Flynn (512) 463-0880
7 Tommy Merritt (512) 463-0750
14 Fred Brown (512) 463-0698
15 Rob Eissler (512) 463-0797
16 Brandon Creighton (512) 463-0726
20 Dan Gattis (512) 463-0309
22 Joe Deshotel (512) 463-0662
23 Craig Eiland (512) 463-0502
24 Larry Taylor (512) 463-0729
25 Dennis Bonnen (512) 463-0564
27 Dora Olivo (512) 463-0494
30 Geanie Morrison (512) 463-0456
32 Juan Garcia (512) 463-0672
33 Solomon Ortiz (512) 463-0484
37 Rene Oliveira (512) 463-0640
38 Eddie Lucio III (512) 463-0606
39 Armando Martinez (512) 463-0530
42 Richard Raymond (512) 463-0558
44 Edmund Kuempel (512) 463-0602
46 Dawnna Dukes (512) 463-0506
47 Valinda Bolton (512) 463-0652
48 Donna Howard (512) 463-0631
49 Elliot Naishtat (512) 463-0668
50 Mark Strama (512) 463-0821
51 Eddie Rodriguez (512) 463-0674
52 Mike Krusee (512) 463-0670
53 Harvey Hilderbran (512) 463-0536
55 Dianne White (512) 463-0630
57 Jim Dunnam (512) 463-0508
63 Tan Parker (512) 463-0688
65 Burt Solomons (512) 463-0478
66 Brian McCall (512) 463-0594
67 Jerry Madden (512) 463-0544
68 Rick Hardcastle (512) 463-0526
69 David Farabee (512) 463-0534
70 Ken Paxton (512) 463-0356
72 Drew Darby 463-0331
75 "Chente" Quintanilla (512) 463-0613
76 Norma Chavez (512) 463-0622
77 Paul Moreno (512) 463-0638
78 Pat Haggerty (512) 463-0728
79 Joe Pickett (512) 463-0596
82 Tom Craddick (512) 463-1000
84 Carl Isett (512) 463-0676
86 John T. Smithee (512) 463-0702
87 David Swinford (512) 463-0470
88 Warren Chisum (512) 463-0736
89 Jodie Laubenberg (512) 463-0186
90 Lon Burnam (512) 463-0740
91 Kelly Hancock (512) 463-0599
92 Todd Smith (512) 463-0522
93 Paula Pierson (512) 463-0562
95 Marc Veasey (512) 463-0716
96 Bill Zedler (512) 463-0374
97 Anna Mowery (512) 463-0608
98 Vicki Truitt (512) 463-0690
99 Charlie Geren (512) 463-0610
100 Terri Hodge (512) 463-0586
101 Thomas Latham (512) 463-0464
102 Tony Goolsby (512) 463-0454
103 Rafael Anchia (512) 463-0746
104 Roberto Alonzo (512) 463-0408
106 Kirk England (512) 463-0694
107 Allen Vaught (512) 463-0244
108 Dan Branch (512) 463-0367
109 Helen Giddings (512) 463-0953
110 Barbara Caraway (512) 463-0664
111 Yvonne Davis (512) 463-0598
112 Fred Hill (512) 463-0486
113 Joe Driver (512) 463-0574
114 Will Hartnett (512) 463-0576
115 Jim Jackson (512) 463-0468
116 Trey Fischer (512) 463-0616
118 Joe Farias (512) 463-0714
119 Robert Puente (512) 463-0452
120 Ruth McClendon (512) 463-0708
121 Joe Straus (512) 463-0686
122 Frank Corte, Jr. (512) 463-0646
123 Michael Villarreal (512) 463-0532
124 Jose Menendez (512) 463-0634
125 Joaquin Castro (512) 463-0669
128 Wayne Smith (512) 463-0733
129 John Davis (512) 463-0734
130 Corbin Van Arsdale (512) 463-0661
131 Alma Allen (512) 463-0744
134 Ellen Cohen (512) 463-0389
135 Gary Elkins (512) 463-0722
136 Beverly Woolley (512) 463-0696
137 Scott Hochberg (512) 463-0492
139 Sylvester Turner (512) 463-0554
141 Senfronia Thompson (512) 463-0720
142 Harold Dutton (512) 463-0510
143 Ana E. Hernandez (512) 463-0614
145 Rick Noriega (512) 463-0732
146 Borris Miles (512) 463-0518
147 Garnet Coleman (512) 463-0524
148 Jessica Farrar (512) 463-0620
149 Hubert Vo (512) 463-0568
150 Debbie Riddle (512) 463-0572

Representatives who have authored/co-authored HB 461

Please send them an email saying "Thank you!” Put in the subject line of your email: “Thank you for supporting HB 461”
District Name Austin Phone No
3 Mark Homer (512) 463-0650
4 Betty Brown (512) 463-0458
5 Bryan Hughes (512) 463-0271
6 Leo Berman (512) 463-0584
8 Byron Cook (512) 463-0730
9 Wayne Christian (512) 463-0556
10 Jim Pitts (512) 463-0516
(co-author on HB 637)
11 Chuck Hopson (512) 463-0592
12 Jim McReynolds (512) 463-0490
13 Lois W. Kolkhorst (512) 463-0600
17 Robby Cook (512) 463-0682
18 John Otto (512) 463-0570
19 Mike Hamilton (512) 463-0412
21 Allan Ritter (512) 463-0706
26 Charlie Howard (512) 463-0710
28 John Zerwas (512) 463-0657
29 Mike O'Day (512) 463-0707
31 Ryan Guillen (512) 463-0416
34 Abel Herrero (512) 463-0462
35 Yvonne Toureilles (512) 463-0645
36 Kino Flores (512) 463-0704
40 Aaron Pena (512) 463-0426
41 Veronica Gonzales (512) 463-0578
43 Juan Escobar (512) 463-0666
45 Patrick M. Rose) (512) 463-0647 (author of HB 3573)
54 Jimmie Aycock (512) 463-0684
56 Charles Anderson (512) 463-0135
58 Rob Orr (512) 463-0538
59 Sid Miller (512) 463-0628
60 Jim Keffer (512) 463-0656
61 Phil King (512) 463-0738
62 Larry Phillips (512) 463-0297
64 Myra Crownover (512) 463-0582
71 Susan King (512) 463-0718
73 Nathan Macias (512) 463-0325
74 Pete Gallego (512) 463-0566
80 Tracy O. King (512) 463-0194
81 G.E. Buddy West (512) 463-0546
83 Delwin Jones (512) 463-0542
85 Joe Heflin (512) 463-0604
94 Diane Patrick (512) 463-0624
105 Linda Harper-Brown (512) 463-0641
117 David Leibowitz (512) 463-0269
126 Patricia Harless (512) 463-0496
127 Joe Crabb (512) 463-0520
132 Bill Callegari (512) 463-0528
133 Jim Murphy (512) 463-0514
138 Dwayne Bohac (512) 463-0727
140 Kevin Bailey (512) 463-0924
144 Robert Talton (512) 463-0460

Contact Your Senator
Below is a list of all of the Texas State Senators. If you don't know who your legislator is, go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/
You can find their mailing address and local phone numbers at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Members/Members.aspx?Chamber=S

Their email address is: firstname.lastname@senate.state.tx.us.

District, Name, Austin Phone No.
1 Kevin Eltife 463-0101
2 Bob Deuell 463-0102
3 Robert Nichols 463-0103
4 Tommy Williams 463-0104
5 Steve Ogden 463-0105
6 Mario Gallegos 463-0106
7 Dan Patrick 463-0107
8 Florence Shapiro 463-0108
9 Chris Harris 463-0109
10 Kim Brimer 463-0110
11 Mike Jackson 463-0111
12 Jane Nelson 463-0112
13 Rodney Ellis 463-0113
14 Kirk Watson 463-0114
15 John Whitmire 463-0115
16 John J. Carona 463-0116
17 Kyle Janek 463-0117
18 Glenn Hegar 463-0118
19 Carlos Uresti 463-0119
20 Juan Hinojosa 463-0120
21 Judith Zaffirini 463-0121
22 Kip Averitt 463-0122
23 Royce West 463-0123
24 Troy Fraser 463-0124
25 Jeff Wentworth 463-0125
26 Leticia Van de Putte 463-0126
27 Eddie Lucio 463-0127
28 Robert Duncan 463-0128
29 Eliot Shapleigh 463-0129
30 Craig Estes 463-0130
31 Kel Seliger 463-0131

Thursday, March 08, 2007

TTC & NAIS Unraveling - part 3


Premise Registration of pets and farm animals is a FEDERAL GOVERNMENTAL initiative that is worming its way through state legislatures across American. In 2005 a one page bill was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law. It has not been implemented yet. Texans who are furious about the Trans Texas Corridor Toll Road landgrab are standing with Ranchers who are opposed to the implementation of mandatory microchip ID for animals and premise registration.

Outrage is bridging partisian boundaries. Liberals, progressives, moderates, conservatives, ultra conservatives and even those who are normally politically apathetic united in Austin March 1st and 2nd, sending clear messages.

Don't Tag my pets, Don't register my home or farm as a premise! Don't take my land!

The message was clearly conveyed: Trans Texas Corridor -- Zachry, Cintra, TxDot, Rick Perry: STAY OFF MY LAND! "My Land is NOT Your Land" was the battle cry.

Why should this matter to people who live in Pennsylvania, New York, Oklahoma, and other states? It matters because these "policies" are being pushed from Washington down to the states. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) announced the selection of Cintra, a Spanish based corporation to manage part of an existing State Highway (SH-121) as a private/public partnership toll road. Cintra, with Texas based Zachry Construction, has been chosen by TxDot to build and operate the massive Trans Texas Corridor. Contracts have not been signed. They must be reviewed and approved by the Transportation Committee.

During the past three years, massive portions of the Texas Transportation Code was revoked or amended . Much TTC and private/public partnership toll project language was inserted into numerous bills in both houses of the Texas Legislature. Many of the Senators and State Representatives who sponsored and voted for the changes received generous campaign contributions from Zachry and other businesses and individuals with financial interests in the TTC.

Last week the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation held an eight hour hearing on SH-121 and the TTC. People came from all over the State. They had to open two additional large hearing rooms and connect them with live television feeds to accommodate the hundreds of Texans who drove to Austin for the hearing.
(Videotaped testimony is available at http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/ (Select March 1 Senate Committee on Transportation & Homeland Security Hearing Regarding the Trans Texas Corridor)

It is challenging to unravel the methodology which was utilized to sell local and State officials on this massive land grab. It is an ill-conceived overly expensive plot. Similar things are occurring in other States. Driven from Washington, legislation to change laws to implement the NAIS and Public Private Toll Road Partnerships have turned Texas into the frontline for national implementation of significant and far-reaching changes in property rights, transportation financing, removal of appropriation control from elected legislative bodies to control of obscure bodies of political appointees. It is probable that Governor Rick Perry's close ties to George W. Bush and Bush's ties in Austin resulted in Texas acquiring the dubious "pleasure" of being selected as the pilot for the Bush Administrations "vision" for revamping the nation's transportation and homeland security. NAIS is definitely Washington driven. National Animal Identification System is a Federal Initiative with joint Agriculture, FDA and Homeland Security oversight!

This is the third in a five part series of journals on the uproar in Texas. Citizens have banded together demanding repeal of legislation which mandates computer chip animal identification and premise registration and of TTC enabling language.


SO HOW DID WE GET HERE? HOW CAN WE INSURE THESE BAD POLICIES CONTINUE TO UNRAVEL?
Rick Perry was re-elected governor in 2006 with the lowest percentage of votes cast for any winning governorial candidate in Texas in modern history. Many more Texans voted for statewide candidates for Agriculture Commissioner and Attorney General who did not win the election than voted for Rick Perry. Incumbents who have been Perry adminstration team players watched massive numbers of their constituents voice disapproval of the TTC at TxDOT hearings all over Texas last summer. They saw support shift from conservative incumbent to anti-TTC populist challengers. Now many who have sponsored TTC enabling legislation or voted in favor of it are back peddlings, saying "I want a do over!"

It takes a lot to get a lot of thousands Texans motivated enough to descend on Austin at one time. Austin is not the easiest place to get to in Texas. Trains only run through Austin once a day. Air service isn't the greatest. Highways are congested and there always seems to be some construction project on the more narrow, overcrowded corridors. It was probably by design. Legislators have historically been viewed by Texans as problems which need to be contained. Constitutionally, State Representatives are "part-time" and the Legislative session is much shorter than in many smaller states with greater population. My College History and Political Science professors all said it was because Texans fear that they'll do too much damage if given more time. Yet last week between 5000 to 6000 people from all over Texas took to the streets. They hauled their horses, chickens, tractors, goats and family pets and marched down Congress Avenue to the State Capitol. It was Texas Independence Day and Texans were declaring INDEPENDENCE over current tyrrany!

Examination of the butcher job they've done on Transportation and Agriculture codes in the past 2 years gives us good cause for such caution. Some of the most far-reaching, radical changes to the Transportation Code were passed in the middle of the night. Much of what has brought us to this particular place occurred in small working groups, at privately funded transportation seminars, in poorly advertised "public meetings" of obscure committees in Councils of Government all over the state. TTC enabling language was presented to Legislative Counsel by attorney's working for various special interest and the language made its way into numerous pieces of legislation in both houses. The clients of these attorneys can hide behind "attorney client privilege", circumventing the ethics rules. The attorneys are able to avoid disclosing who they are representing and these visits are not classified as "Lobbyist" activity! It is not a loophole. It is not even a hole the size of a barn door. It is more like an opening the size of the pasture where the barn should be standing!

A one page bill (C.S.H.B. 1361) passed inro law in Texas September 1, 2005 (but not yet implemented)requires mandatory registration of all premises with animals or poultry, mandatory computerchip ID system, and 24-hour reporting of death or transfer of animal ownership. With only a few paragraphs the way farming, ranching and ownership of horses and domestic pets was reengineered (at least on paper). The cost to implement this program are astounding --on both the bureaucratic level. The shift in privacy rights, property rights, and potential civil rights resulting from implementation of NAIS are mind boggling. We'll explore them in greater detail in journals later this week.

Rick Perry's administration will probably become known as one of the most corrupt administrations in the past quarter of a century. Media doesn't really cover what goes on policy wise in Austin very throughly. Transportation stories usually get buried in obscure places in newspapers. It is difficult to explain complex scenarios in television news bites. Most assignment editors think that the public just isn't all that interested in what the Legislature does. Fortunately the internet and search engines allow us to get some coverage of "our tax dollars at work!" Shame that they are usually not working for us!

The cherry on top is that the folks in public office in Austin are the ones that the majority of Texans (probably) voted for. I say probably because we have had some really big problems with the electronic voting machines -- especially with how accurately they tabulate the votes. During the 2006 Primary, there was over a 100,000 vote tabulation error in Tarrant County and many other snafu's reported in other counties. Few of us are confident that anyone really knows how many people voted for any one candidate. But a lot of people have invested time, and money and faith in the folks in Austin. It is difficult to accept the truth about people you have supported and trusted. Denial reigns supreme in many circles.

When it comes to faith in Texas incumbents, I haven't invested much faith in any of them. There are a few that occasionally get my attention and surprise me pleasantly. Whether Republican or Democrat, I usually try give them a call when I see them do anything good that impresses me. However, I don't have to spend a lot of time on such calls because overall, most of them never rise above C-, even when they "pleasantly surprise" me!

There is nothing that says you have to be intelligent to be elected to the Texas Legislature. There are some who are very intelligent. There are some who are relatively honest. There are few who are both honest and intelligent. They are responsible for that but the voters are the ones who are responsible for selecting them. And we entrust them with setting policies which are complex and have far-reaching consequence to billions of people every day. Selecting the least qualified, academically challenged and intellectually deficient candidates seems to be a pattern of both major parties -- in Texas and elsewhere. (One example is the election of Paula Hightower-Pierson, a high-school drop-out who did not return to school to get a college education, as a Democratic State Representative in 2006). State Party leaders (and the media) tend to rate candidates only in terms of how much money they can access for media buys rather than on credentials, track record, character or intellect!

Once elected, most legislators rely on the Legislative Counsel (and lowly paid staff) to explain the bills and language contained in bills. Counsel frequently relies on contacts from trade groups who come to them on behalf of unnamed entities with language for bills. It is difficult to determine who staffers rely on for their interpretation of complex policies and legislation! Now that there has been consistent, loud, sometimes stringent outcry from Texans from all political parties on the Cintra-Zachry TTC deal and NAIS, many Senators and State Representatives are are saying that they 'didn't understand' what they were doing when they sponsored certain TTC enabling legislation. Many of them probably didn't comprehend the implications in the language of the bills they put their names on as author or sponsor. However, for many, it probably just appears better politically to them right now to try to deny it and distance themselves as far as possible from their previous positions and votes.

A former State Representative told me that he thinks that many of them probably didn't have a clue what language in the TTC Transportation bills really meant. They were told that private public partnerships for toll roads would help them keep gasoline taxes low. Since they'd raided the designated transportation funds and refused to call for bond issues or raises to the gasoline tax for decades for highway construction, they grasp for straws. Legislative session after legislative session for over 20 years, highway and bridge maintenance has been deferred. Population explosions in the major urban centers has resulted in increased urban sprawl and traffic gridlock. Federal funds for rail and mass transit dried up and cities and counties looked for sources (other than local tax money or bond elections) for local transportation projects.

There is a lot of cronyism and out and out thievery in Austin. But the buck really rests with those of us in the hinterlands. We're the folks who allowed them to be elected to office and we're the folks who have allowed them to continue there. There are ways to rein-in errant elected officials. One immediate thing we can do is continue to exert pressure on the Texas Legislature to repeal NAIS. Here is a background paper on legislation that will change "mandatory" to "voluntary".

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/79R/analysis/doc/HB01361H.doc

Amazing how one short, one page document can raise so much havoc in so very very many lives.


C.S.H.B. 1361 By: Hardcastle
Agriculture & Livestock Committee Report (Substituted)
… Because of its complexity, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans on phasing in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). It is vital that Texas develop and implement within the state an animal identification program that is consistent with that of the USDA.

RULEMAKING AUTHORITY

It is the committee's opinion that rulemaking authority is expressly granted to the Texas Animal Health Commission in SECTION 1 of this bill.

ANALYSIS

This bill creates an animal identification program to provide for disease control and to enhance the ability to trace disease-infected animals, which is consistent with the United States Department of Agriculture's National Animal Identification System. The Texas Animal Health Commission (Commission) may require the use of official identification numbers and may establish a date by which all premises must be registered. The Commission may further assess a registration fee on all entities that register for a premises identification number. This bill provides that information collected by the Commission is exempt from public disclosure requirements. The bill authorizes the Commission to disclose information to certain persons, including a governmental entity. The bill provides for penalties for failure to comply with the Commission's order. The bill authorizes the Commission to adopt, implement and enforce rules for the animal identification system.

EFFECTIVE DATE

This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.


CALL TO ACTION ON NAIS:
Status in Texas In 2005, the Texas Legislature adopted HB 1361, codified at §161.056 of the Agriculture Code, authorizing the TAHC to implement NAIS on a mandatory basis in Texas. The TAHC proposed mandatory regulations for premises registration in December 2005, but withdrew them after a public outcry.
In November 2006, the USDA stated that it does not intend to adopt mandatory federal regulations, so there is no federal law or regulation requiring implementation of this program by Texas.
Issues
The NAIS will cause a variety of problems:
• Massive intrusion into people’s lives: individuals will have to provide detailed information about their property, businesses, and their own movements to government and private databases;
• Burden on property rights: the premises registration number will attach to the land forever, and people’s rights to manage their land and animals will be restricted;
• High costs: registration, tagging, and reporting all carry costs in both time and money;
• Loss of small farmers and ranchers: many will be unable to afford the program, or unwilling to accept the government intrusion;
• Damage to the economy: businesses that rely on small farmers, such as sales barns, supply stores, and even tourism, will be harmed;
• Reduced choices and increased costs for consumers;
• Violation of many Americans’ religious beliefs; and
Increased government bureaucracy and waste of taxpayer dollars. Neither the USDA nor the TAHC has performed a cost analysis of the program. Costs for similar programs in other countries are estimated to range from $37/head to $69/head. According to the 2002 USDA census and a 1998 study, Texans own over 14 million cattle, 1 million sheep, 1 million goats, and 1 million horses, the majority of which are on small farms. The NAIS will likely cost Texans hundreds of millions of dollars.
The NAIS will not provide benefits to justify these costs.
The stated purpose of the NAIS is to provide 48-hour traceback to address animal disease. But the NAIS does not address the critical issues for disease prevention and control:
• the causes of disease, especially differences in management;
• the vectors of disease transmission, including wild animals, insects, and imports;
• testing for disease, including tests for Mad Cow and other food-safety issues; and
• the unique issues posed by each species and each disease Contrary to claims, the NAIS will not protect against bio-terrorism.
Terrorists are unlikely to target hobby animal owners and small farmers. Microchips are vulnerable to cloning and computer viruses. The type of microchip specifically recommended for horses and cattle, the ISO microchip, is designed to be reprogrammable, so anyone can easily change the numbers.
The large databases will provide an easy target for hackers. Indeed, even without intentional tampering, the large databases will be unmanageable, as has already been found in Australia. The USDA has stated that NAIS is not a food safety program. Under NAIS, tracking ends when the animal is killed at the slaughterhouse. Most food-borne illnesses occur because of contamination from poor practices after slaughter. NAIS will do nothing to address these issues. Food safety needs to be addressed by increased standards and inspection of food processing facilities, including testing for Mad Cow Disease.
The final stated justification for the NAIS is to improve the export market. However, there are better ways to reach agreement with Japan and other foreign countries, including allowing those meat packers who wish to export beef to test their animals for BSE.
If tracing is a market benefit, let the market implement it, not a mandatory government program using our tax dollars. The USDA also has a “Process Verified Program,” which allows qualifying suppliers to market themselves as “USDA Process Verified,” including age and source verified. Any such program should be voluntary, non-coercive, allow for true competition, and paid for by the participants so that it does not distort market forces.

Some of the alternatives to NAIS for improving animal health
• Develop educational programs for animal owners, addressing disease prevention through animal management and biosecurity, and identification of diseases requiring the intervention of a vet.
• Improve training for veterinarians in recognizing foreign and emerging animal diseases and develop a protocol for the use of rapid diagnostic tools in the field. (recommended by the United States Government Accountability Office in GAO-05-214 (Mar. 2005))
• Increase inspections of animals and agricultural products entering into Texas.
• Consider existing mechanisms for tracking livestock: brucellosis program, scrapie program, tuberculosis program, brand system, sales and slaughter records, and producers’ records. Analyze the costs and benefits of minor modifications to existing programs and alternative programs, such as a “book-end” system (i.e. no tracking of movements) that uses non-electronic means of identification when the animal enters the stream of commerce.
• Conduct scientific modeling to identify high-risk situations and quantify important factors, such as the level of contagion, the means of transmission, and the severity of the diseases of concern.

Proposed legislation HB 461 would amend the current statute to limit the TAHC’s authority to a voluntary program. HB 637 would also limit the program to voluntary only. HB 637 also:
(1) bars any coercive measures from being used; and
(2) requires full disclosure before any person can be enrolled in the program, and provides an unrestricted right to withdraw from it.
This legislation would allow the TAHC to develop NAIS as a voluntary, market-driven program, consistent with the USDA’s November 2006 announcements.


Crossposted on Daily Kos, Texas Kos and Diatribune.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Toll Scheme Unravels - Part 2 - TTC With NAIS fuels inflation

Texans of all generations descended on Austin last week demanding repeal and /or defeat of legislation which will fuel inflation. They didn't mention inflation out right. Instead they talked about the impact implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005 will have on farm and ranch management. They spoke out against the loss of family farms and ranch and farm land to the Trans Texas Corridor and other proposed private/public toll road projects.





Supporters of the TTC and NAIS appear to be concentrated in urban center. Regional Councils of Government Transportation Committees (RTCs) are the most ardent supporters of the TTC and other proposed private public partnership toll road construction and /or operation contracts. In attempting to get a short term solution for scarce transportation funding for local and regional projects, many city councils and county governments have signed on to the "Toll them as much as you can for as long as you can" schemes which will cost motorists (and consumers) more to travel and ship goods along most of the states future roads and road expansion projects.

It could appear to be a rural vs. city issue, but it is not. It is really a power grab through TxDot by some local elected politicians to transfer "upfront" money to unelected appointed Regional Transportation Committees. Combined with implementation of the mandatory National Animal Identification System in Texas, it will result in surges of inflation which will threaten the economic welfare of every person and business in Texas.

They sold this scheme with a carrot of "up front money" dangled to local governmental officials through RTCs. No one examined the payload of hidden costs, detrimental financial impact or short term/long term inflation. TxDot and RTCs have downplayed the significant difference in the cost for funding road projects with private for profit companies instead of using public money, indexing the gas tax and applying designated funding to transportation.


This series of journals discusses two issues which are linked. They are linked because they are both schemes which will transfer money and financial opportunities from many for the benefit of a few for terms of at least 50 years. Through proposed exercise of eminent domain, more acreage will move from private ownership to State ownership to be controlled for the financial benefit of private concessionaires (Cintra and Zachry). NAIS hits the farmers and ranchers hardest economically. However its impact reverberates throughout the economy and will fuel inflation which will take "buying power for the same dollar" out of the pockets of every business, man, woman and child in Texas. It will impact every consumer of goods produced and or marketed from Texas -- irregardless of where they live.

Construction of the Trans Texas Corridor and expansion and construction of other new highways using the private public partnership models of the TTC and Texas State Highway 121 will take money out of the pockets of every consumer who purchases goods that originate in Texas or are shipped through Texas.

I'll start out by discussing the cost of tuna fish. Most folks are familiar with buying tuna fish in the grocery store on sale. Last year we could usually find it on sale at 3 cans for a dollar. This year on sale it is more frequently offered as 10 cans for $10. Last year it was 33 cents can – this year it is a dollar a can. That is a 200% increase in one year for a commonly purchased food product. Rich and poor alike buy groceries. They are basic necessities. We could have used hamburger meat instead of tuna fish for this example but I chose tuna. The cost of tuna rose, not because of increase manufacturing cost or a significant shift in supply or demand for tuna. It rose last year because of increased gasoline costs for shipping. Shipping costs are usually passed on 100% to the consumer. Inflated fuel costs results in inflation when we go to the checkout counter in the grocery store.

Implementing the private public toll road partnership for building Texas Highways as toll roads will have a very similar impact on the price of goods when we are standing at the check out counter. When we buy hammers or nails, when we buy feed, when we buy tuna fish, when we buy clothes, when we buy medication, we'll pay higher prices to cover the merchants’ increases in shipping costs for the goods. When we buy meat we’ll pay for the increase in shipping for the feed and supplies to feed the beef plus increases in shipping costs to the slaughter houses and then to the market. If the TTC or another toll road is cut through a ranch or farm, that will be the route to market. They’ll have to pay to use the road that cuts through land they used to own!

Proponents of the private/public transportation partnership argue that those who choose to drive on the roads will be the ones to pay the tolls. However, all of us, no matter where we live and even if we never drive or ride down the toll road, we’ll pay for it. When we check out at the grocery store, part of our grocery bill will cover profit for the private company operating toll roads and for “up front money” for local politicians to control and divide up as “pork”. It will be a very poorly hidden regressive tax which will fuel inflation and force us to make tough personal financial decisions. State and local elected officials have ducked out and avoided facing the tough budgetary issues head-on. These private/public partnerships are appealing to them on the surface but will deliver a financial payload that will be devastating to local citizens, businesses and government alike.






One of the cruelest aspects of the Cintra/SH121 contract (which is the first of many TxDot plans to sign in the near future all over Texas) is that children (including two generations who are not even born yet) will be paying the highest tolls and related shipping fees for goods and services under the escalating toll private public partnership agreements.

There will be some increase to pay for road maintenance and construction no matter what policies are implemented. However, the private/public partnership toll road schemes devised to generate as much "excess toll revenue" so that private partners can make profit while distributing substantial sums as "up front money" to regional transportation committees will help accelerate the rise in inflation. It is probable, that coupled with implementation of NAIS and continuing high energy costs, we'll return to the nightmare days of double-digit inflation. It is quite possible that we'll be seeing escalating inflation while salaries and real income stays flat or drops off. To control inflation we usually see interest rates on loans, and home mortgages rise. Folk make only the same or less money but have to spend more for a can of tuna, for clothes, people have to pay higher house payments for the same house when inflation rises. Folks pay more to finance automobiles. These are issues which are of paramount importance to every city dweller and every business person.

The farmers and ranchers are leading the charge in Texas in opposition to NAIS and TTC. We all must join in.

There are many cost in implementation of NAIS. We'll discuss them further in the comments section and in journals later this week. Please pass links to this journal along to your friends and ask them to join in the conversation. The more that recommend and comment on this series, the more visibility we can give this issue.

Crossposted on Texas Koas, Daily Kos and Diatribune.

Photos used by permission, courtesy of Sal Costello, Judith McGeary, Pam Thompson, Tatum Evans and Tom Blackwell.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Toll Scheme Unravels - Texans March on State Capitol


Photos by Judy McGeary, used by permission

Thousands of people from all over the state of Texas descended on Austin Friday, March 2nd, registering extreme discontent with the Trans Texas Corridor and Mandatory Animal Microchip ID.



A few months earlier, the TTC was described as "a done deal." Now, at the mercy of enraged citizenry, many legislators who sponsored TTC enabling bills are back peddling and attempting to distance themselves from previous support for the private/public partnership toll road, pipeline and rail corridor scheme. Positioned to be the first major leg of a multi-state NAFTA transportation corridor, the TTC would gobble up millions of acres of Texas land, while transferring resources from many to a few over a timeframe of 50 years.

Texans cried out against the TTC. Some came to Austin wearing t-shirt labeled "Tyranny Response Team!" Others called Perry's TTC a Texas Nightmare!

Photos by Tom Blackwell, used by permission.

A few months earlier, the TTC was described as "a done deal." Now, at the mercy of enraged citizenry, many legislators who sponsored TTC enabling bills are back peddling and attempting to distance themselves from previous support for the private/public partnership toll road, pipeline and rail corridor scheme. Positioned to be the first major leg of a multi-state NAFTA transportation corridor, the TTC would gobble up millions of acres of Texas land, while transferring resources from many to a few over a timeframe of 50 years.
Texans cried out against the TTC. Some came to Austin wearing t-shirt labeled "Tyranny Response Team!" Others called Perry's TTC a Texas Nightmare!
For the next five days I will be posting journals on three blogs: Grassroots News You Can Use, Daily Kos and Texas Kos examining how the Toll Scheme and Animal Mandatory Microchip ID plans evolved, their impact on the state and nation, and the methodology of special interest groups and pockets of greedy, ambitious, corrupt local and state elected officials conspired to re-engineer the funding mechanism of transportation in Texas in violation of the public trust.
Jesse James and his gang of bandits and all other bank robbers never pulled off a "job" of the magnitude attempted by "players" who conspired to revise highway construction and replace known models of toll road construction with newer models designed to generate the largest amount of SURPLUS TOLL REVENUE to distribute to local (non elected) Regional Mobility Commissions (RMC) and as profit for private partners. Low bids which would have kept tolls low, and retired the debt as rapidly as possible submitted by reputable toll authorities such as the NTTA (which has operated the North Dallas Toll Road efficiently for decades) were rejected in favor of higher bids and higher toll fees to generate greater up front barrels of pork to be distributed by regional transportation committees on HW121. The Spanish based Cintra was selected by TxDot as the contractor for the I-121 project, a toll project in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. Local toll road operators with positive proven track records in the region for "building good roads at the lowest cost, keeping tolls as low as possible, and retiring the debt as soon as possible" were bypassed because their toll models "did not generate sufficient surplus toll revenue to generate up-front money to pay to the RMC and profit for the private partners."
At the Hearing Thursday it was revealed that TxDot intends to sign contracts on five more transportation projects in the Dallas Fort Worth area in the next 12 months -- and these projects are to be toll projects following the I-121 toll model. One witness describes them as encompassing all the major transportation arteries in the DFW Metroplex. TxDot Chairman Williamson stated that these projects have all been publicized through many hearings with good attendance in the DFW area. However, until Thursday's hearing, none of the activists I know in Tarrant County were aware that any of these roadways (except for I-121) were slated to be contracted as private/public partnerships! The hearings on I-121 were held in Denton and Collin County even though Tarrant County tax money has financed some of the right of way purchases. Most people learned of the I-121 hearings through reports of the letting of the contract to Cintra. Few people attended the TxDot I-121 hearing. Few heard of it before it occurred. TxDot’s TTC hearings last summer drew auditorium and convention halls filled with people. The Senate Hearing in Austin filled up three large hearing rooms. Yet only a few people showed up to the hearings for I-121. The reality is that people have difficulty showing up to hearings that are poorly publicized.
The Senate Hearing on Transportation and Homeland Security was a good start in the right direction for transportation planning it Texas. It is unfortunate that they waited until after TxDot had spent taxpayer money for engineering studies, PR, legal and other expenses in relation to the Trans Texas Corridor to hold it! The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security Hearing March 1st is the first major step toward a serious examination of the problems which brought the state to this impasse. Senator John Corona, Chairman, is applauded for holding this hearing. It is unfortunate that the hearing was not held prior to TxDot squandering billions of tax dollars. The money already spent on the TTC would have completed one or more of the state's many unfunded transportation projects.
Non compete clauses in the I-121 contract restrict construction of public non-toll roads parallel to the toll road for 50 years. The rejected NTAA bid allowed for 1.5% toll increases every 5 years. The Cintra contract calls for up to 3.5% toll increases every 2 years!
One of the transportation experts testifying at the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security Hearing estimates that indexing the gasoline tax to pay for road construction will be significantly less expensive for taxpayers than building roads utilizing the I-121 private/public partnership toll model. Travelers on I-121 would probably pay an additional $80 annually in the last year of the contract (year 49) to travel on the toll road if it is paid for by gasoline tax indexing. It is estimated that in year 49 travelers on the toll road under the Cintra TxDot I-121 contract will probably spend $3000.00 annually in tolls!

Crossposted on Daily Kos , Texas Koas, and Grassroots News You Can Use.

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