Saturday, May 19, 2007

Voter ID bill idled in respect to ill senator

By JOHN MORITZ - Star-Telegram staff writer
AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate, still smarting from a two-day partisan dust-up over legislation that would require voters to present identification at the voting booth, chose not to bring the measure to the floor Friday out of respect for an ailing member who opposes it.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said they continue to support the legislation but suggested that it would have been bad form to pursue it on a day when Democratic Sen. Mario Gallegos was hospitalized.

Gallegos, who underwent liver transplant surgery early this year, was forced to undergo a surgical procedure related to the transplant at a hospital near his Houston home.

"The senators who I talked to didn't want to proceed out of respect for Senator Gallegos," Dewhurst told reporters. The bill might come up later in the session, he added
. Read more

Marijuana grown under neighbors' noses in Burleson

By ALEX BRANCH - Star-Telegram staff writer - May. 19, 2007 Alex Branch, 817-390-7689
BURLESON -- The brown brick home with children's bicycles parked out front blended well into the neighborhood.

But inside the house was a drug operation the likes of which Johnson County authorities say they've never seen.

One part of the house had been transformed into a "grow room," where 3- to 4-foot marijuana plants thrived under well-positioned lights. Large rotisserie-like equipment with irrigation systems and lights at their core nurtured smaller plants. Marijuana plants were also growing in a free-standing greenhouse in the back yard.

Read more

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dewhurst Violates Voter Integrity to Pass Voter Integrity Bill

posted by Patricia Kilday Hart - Texas Monthly's Burkablog - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

At the beginning of this week, I fully expected an emotional insurrection overthrowing the presiding officer of one chamber of the Legislature -- on the west side of the Capitol. But this morning, David Dewhurst's handling of the Voter ID bill created such havoc that if the Senate rules allowed for a motion to vacate the chair, the votes surely would have been there to support it.

For weeks, Dewhurst has been coyly suggesting that he had the votes to pass the Voter ID bill, though 11 Democrats had all signed a letter stating they would vote to block its consideration. While Republicans call the proposal requiring a picture ID to vote the "Voter Integrity Bill," Democrats consider it the "Voter Suppression Bill." This morning, Dewhurst recognized author Troy Fraser to bring up the legislation, and the Democrats knew something was up. John Whitmire approached the podium and asked Dewhurst, "Do ya'll have this rigged?" Dewhurst's response: "Rigged," he said, was too strong of a word.

Senate Democrats have been watching for and trying to be prepared for a trick play. Their staffs search every day for vehicles that can be amended with the Voter ID language; Democratic caucus chair Leticia Van de Putte is alerted when each Democrat makes it to the building every day. Liver transplant patient Mario Gallegos has stayed in Austin against doctor's orders specifically to block the bill.

Read more

More behind the scenes drama on Senate Voter ID Vote

Uresti Notified Brimer, Nelson, Spaw of Illness
posted by Patricia Kilday Hart - Texas Monthly's Burkablog -Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Carlos Uresti came down with a serious bout of the flu Monday, and left the Capitol after fellow senators noted how bad he looked shivering in the Senate lounge. In particular, Dr. Kyle Janek advised him to get to bed, amidst joking from others present: "What do you think is going to happen? That we'll call up the Voter ID bill?"

It now appears that Uresti's illness may have prompted David Dewhurst to recognize Troy Fraser on the controversial bill, which set in motion an emotional outburst midday Tuesday over Dewhurst's refusal to count John Whitmire's vote.
Read more

Senate erupts with Dewhurts handling of Voter ID debate

Senators to Confront the Dew
posted by Patricia Kilday Hart on Texas Monthly's Burkablog Friday, May 18, 2007

The controversy over the Voter ID bill, which prompted lengthy caususes in the Texas Senate today, continues to escalate. I've just been told that three senators -- Leticia Van de Putte, Tommy Williams and Steve Ogden -- are being sent as emissaries from the entire Senate to communicate to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst their displeasure at his handling of the emotionally-charged issue.

Apparently, the Senate remained split on the issue -- with many Republicans arguing for ditching the two-thirds rule to get the bill passed -- until Dewhurst earlier today issued a foolish attack against John Whitmire in a press release. I'm told that Dewhurst's comments had the salutary effect of uniting the Senate, though perhaps not in the manner he would have hoped.
Read more

Inmmigration compromise reached in Washington

Highlights - Key components of the compromise immigration plan:
All illegal immigrants who arrived before Jan. 1, 2007, could stay and work after paying a $1,500 fee, passing a criminal background check, and showing a strong work record.

They would also have to pay a fine of $5,000.

After eight years, they could apply for a green card.

A new visa category would be created for parents of U.S. citizens, allowing them to visit for up to 100 days per year.

A temporary-worker program would allow 400,000 immigrant workers to enter on two-year visas, after which they would have to return home for a year before reapplying. The visas could be renewed up to three times.

A new point system would add factors for green-card eligibility to lessen the "chain migration" of family members.

The Border Patrol and interior enforcement would be expanded, and a new security perimeter would be created. Such border enforcement provisions would have to be implemented before immigrant-rights measures take effect.

SOURCES: Office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Congressional Quarterly

Deal on Immigration Reached
Bush Supports Senate's Bipartisan Compromise, but Hurdles Remain

Jonathan Weisman - Washington Post Staff Writer - Friday, May 18, 2007; Page A01

The Bush administration and a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement yesterday on a sprawling overhaul of the nation's immigration laws that would bring an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants out of society's shadows while stiffening border protections and cracking down on employers of undocumented workers.

The delicate compromise, 380 pages long and three months in the making, represents perhaps the last opportunity for President Bush to win a major legislative accomplishment for his second term, and it could become the most significant revision of the nation's immigration system in 41 years. Bush hailed the agreement as "one that will help enforce our borders, but equally importantly, it will treat people with respect."
Read more

SB 792 passes Senate exempting more tollways from moratorium

New tollway bill passes Senate
More projects exempted from private toll road moratorium in unanimous Senate vote.
By Ben Wear - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Texas Senate, after hours of closed-door negotiations stamped out hot spots of dissent, unanimously passed revamped toll road legislation Monday that would supplant a bill languishing on Gov. Rick Perry's desk.

Perry, who has made it clear he would veto the first bill, House Bill 1892, immediately signaled that he would allow Senate Bill 792 to become law if the House passes it in its current form. Lawmakers involved in the negotiations say they hope to get SB 792 to Perry late this week in time to avert a veto, although the often-fractious House might not play along.
That ban in HB 1892 already had several exemptions for proposed tollways in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and El Paso. The Senate on Monday, with SB 792, added the Grand Parkway loop planned for Houston, the potential Interstate 69 from near Corpus Christi to Brownsville, and all of Cameron County
Read more

S792 and the NCTCOG

by Steve Blair - Tuesday, May 17, 2007
Senate Bill 792 and House Bill 1892 -- in Austin

Yesterday the Texas Senate did a most extraordinary thing. In the Morning it heard and passed its recommendation for S 792 and sent it directly to the Floor of Senate, where it was immediately passed unanimously. Please note -- no public input allowed.

The revised S 792 guts the two year moratorium, on building additional Toll Roads, proposed by House 1892 all across Texas (with North Central Texas excepted).

Rumor in Austin has it that Perry threatened to Veto any legislation from anyone who refused to accept the S 792 as revised by Senator Carona (Williams was the original author by the way).

The effect of this will be the continued building of Toll Roads across Texas -- also called the Trans Texas Corridor by pieces.

More about this latest piece from Perry and Carona may be found at or

This affects North Central Texas in a variety of ways; however, take only one piece -- the Regional Transportation Board (RTB), a branch of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

Glen Whitley, who won Vandergriff's seat and a member of the RTB, is the President of the NCTCOG Executive Board. Writing in the Star-Telegram (Sunday, May 6, 2007) in an article titled "The Road to Mobility is Paved With Practicality," he states

"In some circles, it seems that the transportation issue is no longer about which policies best serve communities but how the issue can be used for political gain."

How ironic since he and the Board NEVER gave the Public even one chance to log in to the so called conversation. No issues were ever considered too seriously except one that violates Federal Law, as noted to this Board in a Letter from James D. Ray, Chief Counsel, U. S. Department of Transportation (May 10, 2007) addressed to Amadeo Saenz, Jr., Assistant Director Engineering Operations Texas Department of Transportation.

The Letter states , "First, our major legal concern is that the legislatively enacted revised procurement process for SH [State Highway] 121 seems to directly conflict with Federal Law and FHWA regulations." The Letter clearly addresses the failure to hold necessary Public Forums for the utilization of any Federal Funds for use in Public Works. The Second concern of Ray is the avoidance of the NCTCOG from using the Federally mandated State DOT (Department of Transportation). This point addresses the actions of not allowing other entities to even bid for construction contracts. To this extent, one company alone stands out.
Whitley wrote, "One company has agreed to to spend $5 billion dollars for the right to build and lease the Texas 121 project. . . ." That one company is Cintra-Zachery, which is to be allowed to operate SH 121 as a Toll Road for a period of 50 years.

Background -- Cintra is a wholly owned Spanish Corporation which manages other Toll Roads world wide while Zachery is a Construction Contractor out of San Antonio solely owned by the Zachery Family. Although they are not technically one company, they function as one in this project. That is Zachery is in charge of all construction and Cintra controls the rest, exclusively. This is exactly the deal which Perry offered both for the totality of all TTC Contracts.

Please note that the NCTCOG includes in its own literature, "Tolls remain on project after CDA duration" or after Cintra would have to return SH 121 to the public ownership. The initial Toll Rates (or Toll Taxes as I call them) the NCTCOG defines as varying from 12.5 cents per mile to 17 cents per mile, "These peak and off-peak rates will average approximately 14.5 cents/mile." Please note that these toll rates are regulated ONLY by the operator of the Toll Facility -- without any Governmental or Public oversight.

SH 121 is the first proposed Project of the RTB as they see it as a cash cow project. The six segments which make up the SH 121 Project are projected (by the NCTCOG) to cost an estimated $902.2 million. Of that amount local governments are to contribute $48 million, Texas is to contribute $12.6 million, the Federal Government is to contribute $58.2 million, and Metro Corridor is to contribute $290.4. Other sources will contribute a total of $49.4 million. Metro Corridor would be funded by locally received sales tax revenue, which is currently capped for cities at 2%, but legislation to release the cap for Transportation is in Austin.

Thus $905.6 million will be contributed (which, by the way the NCTCOG calls $989.9 million) for the $902.2 million Project.

Another way to state this is that Cintra-Zachery will not have to contribute even 1 cent to garner a 50 year contract for SH 121 -- which will never again be free of tolls.

Let the DFW Turnpike offer an example of the profitability for this contract. The DFW Turnpike ran as a Toll Road for about 10 years until the bonds were retired and the road became what is currently US 30 between Downtown Fort Worth and Downtown Dallas. SH 121 would operate for about 40 years as free income to Cintra-Zachery, if Cintra-Zachery had to pay for the construction at all, which it does not have to do. $5 billion or more at an expense of nothing.

State and Federal Gas Taxes built the existent portion of SH 121 (the new proposal would carry SH 121 to US 75). Additional State Gas Taxes and local Sales Taxes would pay for the extension. [Federal Funds may not be available after 2010 when EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) regulations may kick in for lack of obtaining clean air standards.]

The most obvious impact of such a project will be two-fold on every consumer in the region. First, increased local sales taxes. Second, increased inflation -- directly for commuters on the road and secondarily for consumers who purchase anything that may reflect the increased cost of transportation of those goods.

Note that SH 121 is only one project for such treatment. The NCTCOG has at least 21 such projects that will completely encircle the whole DFW region, and will increase the cost of living and transporting anything in or out of the DFW region. For reference see Consider also, for example, their proposal to make SH 360 a Toll Road between SH 287 and DFW Airport at their minimum cost of 14.5 cents per mile.

For now, what you might wish to do is to contact and follow their links to your local representatives in Austin about not allowing S 792 to override H 1892 -- demand that at least a moratorium be maintained until Public Input is allowed into the process.

You might also want to contact your local NCTCOG representatives and express your self to them about how they are violating Federal Laws demanding competitive bidding and open meetings. Here are few of the members:

Cynthia White, Chair, Commissioner Denton County,
T. Oscar Trevino, Vice Chair, Mayor, N. Richland Hills
Sheri Capehart, Council Member, Arlington
Jan Collmer, D/FW International Airport
Jack Hatchell, P.E., Commissioner Collin County
Pete Kemp, Council Member, Denton
Carl Tyson, Council Member, Euless
Kathryn Wilemon, Council Member, Arlington
Bobbie Mitchell, Commissioner Denton County
Chad Adams, Commissioner, Ellis County

Perhaps Whitley's article should note that the efforts against the Tolling of Texas are not about politics at all. The arguments are about multiple layers of taxation to support private corporations, and ownership and control of Texas' Roads by Texans after all. And it ain't no single political party that is opposing this, it is people of all parties opposing it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Under bill, no fatality would go unreported

Area lawmaker wants refineries to include deaths of contractors in safety statisticsBy LISE OLSEN and SAMANTHA LEVINE
Houston Chronicle News Services
U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Houston is seeking to close the loophole that allowed the federal government to report no fatalities at refineries in 2002 or 2003, when in fact at least nine people died.

Democrat Green introduced a bill on the issue this week after learning about the problem from a Houston Chronicle article prompted by the deadly explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City in March. The article explained how refinery deaths often go unreported in industry statistics.

Green's proposed law would require employers to compile injury and illness logs that include regular employees and contract workers.

Read more

Refinery explosion lead to legislative bills

AP TEXAS NEWS May 16, 2007, 12:32PM © 2007 The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Two Texas lawmakers have introduced legislation in response to the 2005 explosion at BP PLC's Texas City plant that killed 15 people, calling for stricter employer reporting procedures on accidents and harsher penalties for safety violations.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, has proposed a bill that would require employers to report contract workers' injuries, deaths and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"When I tried to find out why the refinery exploded and learn more about the people who were killed, I discovered that BP had not reported the deaths to OSHA," Green said in a statement. "It turns out they didn't have to report them because the workers were contractors."

Read more

Opposition to Moratorium Bill cost I-69 Alliance - Harris County pulls out

NAFTA Super Highway proponent lose support. Twenty-four hours after the I-69 Alliance issued a memo calling for Governor Perry to veto the Toll Moratorium Bill, Harris County Commmissioners voted unaniously to pull out of the Alliance.
"The alliance's interests have changed since Harris County joined it," Emmett said. "The original intent was to upgrade U.S. 59 to an interstate."

In December 2005 Governor Perry instructed TxDOT to
Recast I-69 as Trans Texas Corridor-69, using tools of the private marketplace to advance the project.

Perry's instructions said:
This should include: Improvements to U.S. Highways 59, 77 and 281

•Adding truck lanes beside existing lanes

•Adding freight rail capacity•Use a mix of toll lanes and non-tolled lanes

•Immediately begin work to build an interstate-quality highway to connect the Lower Rio Grande Valley to I-37

•Begin soliciting TTC-69 proposals from the private sector and invest state equity as needed•Balance transportation needs with the preservation of open space and the private property rights of Texans. Source

Now I-69 it has become one of the major legs of the proposed TTC/NAFTA Super Highway.
-69 today connects Indianapolis with the Canadian border at Port Huron, Michigan/Sarnia, Ontario. While it only passes through two states now, it is an important link between the lower Midwest and the most populous provinces of Canada. However, current plans will extend Interstate 69 much further.

The proposed I-69 extension will connect three different border crossings in Texas (Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville) to I-465 in Indianapolis; from there, traffic will continue over the existing I-69 and other freeways (such as U.S. 127 [possible future I-73] and U.S. 24) to border crossings in Detroit, Port Huron or Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Approximately 1600 miles of freeway (including the 3 Texas branches) will be added to existing I-69 when it is complete.

In some areas, particularly in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas, much of I-69 will probably be built as upgrades of existing four-lane highways to modern freeway standards, while in other areas construction on new alignment is likely. (This is similar to what happened when the original Interstates were built; particularly in the desert Southwest, the Interstates were simply upgrades of preexisting highways.)

Interstate 69 is often characterized as lots of little projects rolled into one big package.
Read more

I-69 in Texas
Current Status
Segments being designed:

EIS for these segments is pending; FR Notice (15 January 2004).
The I-69 corridor starts on the Texas-Mexico border with crossings of the Rio Grande at Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville. The corridors proceed north and east along U.S. 59, U.S. 281, and U.S. 77 to near Victoria, Texas, where they join and follow U.S. 59 northeast to the Houston area.

From the Houston area, Interstate 69 will continue to follow the U.S. 59 corridor north, bypassing Cleveland, Shepherd, Livingston, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches. From the Nacogdoches area, I-69 will continue to the northeast, passing near Carthage and crossing into Louisiana to the east, and then continuing eastward to I-49 around Stonewall.

There are some existing freeway sections, but most of the existing routes along the I-69 corridor through Texas are rural 4-lane expressways. The U.S. 59 bypass of Nacogdoches and Lufkin is being designed to be part of I-69; other local freeway bypasses may be built before the rural segments are upgraded.

Texas' route also includes a freeway spur between I-69 near Nacogdoches and the west side of Texarkana, which presumably would follow U.S. 59's general path. However, it seems unlikely that both this spur and I-49 (between Texarkana and Shreveport) will be built in the forseeable future, and the I-69 spur may eventually be discarded due to this duplication.

During 2002 and 2003, it was decided that Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor proposal would be the basis for developing Interstate 69 in Texas. Accordingly, the original division of the route into 15 SIUs is being treated as preliminary, and the entire corridor in the state (as well as the connection to national SIU 15 near Shreveport, La.) will be studied using a unified, two-tier Environmental Impact Statement process.
Read more

TX House approves bill telling funds to divest from Sudan

© 2007 The Associated Press (Houston Chronicle)
AUSTIN — Two state pension funds would be required to divest from companies doing business with the Sudanese government under a bill given final approval by the House on Tuesday and sent to Gov. Rick Perry.

Read more

Monday, May 14, 2007

Under the Texas Dome - Another Good Bill that Needs to be Passed

GOOD BILL - HB 2112 (Diane Patrick) Relating to the prosecution of an offense prohibiting the exhibition, use, or threatened exhibition or use of a firearm in or on school property or a school bus. Has been passed by the house and referred to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on May 14, 2007.

Currently, Section 37 of the Education Code does not include parking lots and parking garages in the list of premises on which a person is prohibited from intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possessing a firearm. As a result, the language does not specifically allow for a District Attorney to prosecute a person possessing a firearm on school property not defined as the premises, such as parking lots.

C.S.H.B. 2112 would add language to include the prohibition of possession of a firearm if a person intentionally exhibits, uses, or threatens to exhibit or use a firearm in a manner intended to cause alarm or personal injury to another person or to damage school property in or on any property, including a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area, that is owned by a private or public school, or on a school bus being used to transport children to or from school-sponsored activities of a private or public school.

Subsection (a)(1) is added to describe the property of the school, including a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area, that is own by a private or public school. The bill strikes language relating to the commission of an offense if a person interferes with the normal use of a building or portion of a campus.

History and Status of Bill

Text of Bill

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please contact members of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and ask them to pass C.S.H.B. 2112
Chair: Sen. John Whitmire
Vice Chair: Sen. Kel Seliger
Members: Sen. John Carona, Sen. Bob Deuell, Sen. Rodney Ellis, Sen. Glenn Hegar, Sen. Juan Hinojosa

Senate Contact Information

Watching the Dome - TEXAS BILL ALERTS

Action Alerts for May 14-15 for the Texas House and Senate include:


ACTION ALERT CSSB 439 by Deuell attempts to correct legislation which allows medical providors to withdraw patients from life support over the objection of their families and prior to decisions by ethics or medical review committees. The bill was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar on May 10th. It needs to be passed and go to the house. This is a life and death matter which could impact any Texan if left unaddressed.

Currently, if a physician refuses to honor an advance directive or treatment decision, the physician's decision must be reviewed by an ethics or medical committee, during which time life-sustaining treatment is required to be provided to the patient. Some hospitals are withdrawing life-sustaining treatment from patients before they can be transferred to an alternative facility, often resulting in their death.

C.S.S.B. 439 requires life-sustaining treatment to continue to be provided to the patient until the patient's transfer to another facility is complete and the facility from which the patient is being transferred is required to provide a list of facilities, maintained by the Department of State Health Services, that have volunteered their readiness to accept transfers. The bill ensures the rights of patients and their families in deciding to accept or reject life-sustaining treatment, seeks to improve the doctor-patient relationship, allows doctors to refuse to continue a treatment that conflicts with their personal code of ethics, strengthens the power and legitimacy of advanced directives, and promotes the public's trust in hospitals.

History and Status of Bill:

Text of Bill

Texas Senate Contact Information

Texas House Contact Information



S.B. 1667 – Good Bill – Relating to the amount of an administrative penalty assessed by the Railroad Commission of Texas for a violation of the Texas Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act or a permit issued under that act. Has passed the Senate and was placed on the General State Calendar in the Texas House on May 14th.

Current law sets the maximum penalty fee for a violation of a mining permit at $5,000. The Railroad Commission of Texas recommends increasing the maximum penalty for a violation of the Texas Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act to reflect the impact of inflation since the fee was established in the 1970s.

As proposed, S.B. 1667 increases the maximum penalty from $5,000 to $10,000 for a violation of coal mining and reclamation operations or underground mining operations permit.

History and Status of Bill

Text of Bill

Texas House Contact Information

Good Bill: C.S.S.B. 199 Has passed the Senate and was placed on the General State Calendar of the Texas House for May 15, 2007.

Currently, a number of convictions for violent criminal offenses do not bar a person from being employed as a home care attendant. Current law provides a list of hiring prohibitions that prevent a person of certain criminal offenses from being employed to care for certain elderly or persons with disabilities.

As proposed, C.S.S.B. 199 adds to the list of offenses that preclude a person from being employed to care for the elderly or disabled.

History of Bill

Text of Bill

Texas House Contact Information

SB 64 -Good Bill passed by Senate, placed on General Calendar of House on May 14th.
Zaffirini’s bill tightens the campaign finance reporting rules.

History and Status of Bill

Text of Bill

Texas House Contact Information


H.B. 2660 Has been passed by the House and has been received in the Senate. Relating to the use of money from the Texas economic development bank fund for rural rail development atttempts to address some funding issues for Rail initiatives approved in previous sessions of the Legislature

Pursuant to Chapter 91, Transportation Code, the authority to create rural rail districts is granted.
The establishment of rural rail districts (who may own facilities and railways) were authorized under provisions of Chapter 623, Acts of the 67th Legislature, Regular Session, 1981 (Article 6550c, Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes). However, no state funding has been provided to assist in the initial creation of said rural rail districts.

H.B. 2660 will authorize funding to provide, as start up money, for the creation of such rail districts. These powers were authorized to the Texas Department of Transportation (department) under the afore mentioned authority, but funding to assist these local districts has never been provided by the state of Texas.

History and Status of Bill


Dangerous Bill Alert: HB 2564 was passed by the Texas House and was received by the Texas Senate on May 14th. Many governmental watchdog groups, non-profit groups, and journalist argue that language in this bill could restrict the public’s timely access to information. Previous law allowed citizen examination of unlimited amounts of information and only charged for photocopies. Citizens access for examination of information is curtailed by language in this bill.
History of Bill

Text of Bill

Texas Senate Contact Information

Big Oil Still Running Roughshod - David Van Os

Sharon Wilson (TxSharon) posted an editorial on Daily Kos Mon May 14, 2007 for David Van Os. David's concise analysis of the elastic gasoline prices and political /industry factors which drive such elasticity is a "Must Read"!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Limit on Property Tax Appraisal Rate Increases voted by House

Weaker tax bill advances in House -
Lawmakers give a tentative OK to limits on revenue for governments

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau April 27, 2005, 6:43AM
AUSTIN - A watered-down bill designed to make cities and counties more accountable to voters for property tax increases finally won tentative approval Tuesday in the Texas House.

Currently in Texas, property tax rates often stay the same, but tax bills increase anyway because of rising property values. That means local officials can rake in additional revenue without having to vote on raising the tax rate, said Rep. Carl Isett, sponsor of House Bill 1006
. Read more

Flawed Voter ID System purges qualified voters from list

The real problem
While lawmakers push additional ID requirements for casting ballots, a flawed computer database is purging already qualified voters from the rolls.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle May 5, 2007, 8:33PM
Early balloting around the state for the May 12 election has resulted in long delays and frayed tempers in many locales. The difficulties had nothing to do with the unproven election fraud cited by state legislators as a justification for new laws mandating more extensive ID from voters.

Instead, hundreds of people who went to the polls found their names had been removed because of glitches in a $14 million Web-based state computer program intended to centralize voter registration lists.

In a particularly embarrassing episode, the mayor of Prairie View, Frank Jackson, discovered when he attempted to vote early that his name and registration had vanished from the state-compiled list.

The IBM-Hart InterCivic system had been selected at the direction of former Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, despite the fact it cost $800,000 more than a proven competitor, VOTEC. After the purchase, the vendor then substituted an untried computer system that is giving fits to election officials around the state.
Read more

See other coverage of the problem

IRS Leans On Auction Sites to Spill Customer Information

By Lisa Vaas - eWeek.Com
May 10, 2007
Would you trust eBay to keep your name, address and taxpayer identification number safe? What about, or what about an obscure online broker you've never heard of?

The Center for Democracy and Technology is raising a red flag over the prospect after language appeared in the President Bush's budget that would require brokers of personal property—including online auction houses and consignment stores—to collect personal data from customers and to share it with the Internal Revenue Service.

The push to put personal customer information into the hands of the Feds is coming from the U.S. Treasury Department, which is attempting to track down millions in unreported small business income. There's serious money at stake: The Treasury Department's proposal in the president's budget estimates that it could raise $20 million in 2008, increasing steadily over the years to hit a cumulative $1.974 billion by 2017.
Read more

Related Publications

The Arlington Texan, a portal to news and coverage of issues and events of and about Arlington, Texas. DFW Regional Concerned Citizens is a sister-site of Grassroots News You Can Use. Visitors can subscribe to issues-specific and county specific action alerts using a simple form on the site. About Air and Water focuses on DFW Regional air quality and water/gas drilling issues. We welcome your feedback.