Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Texas Republicans Neglect To Renew Critical State Agencies

Republicans Representing
Collin Co.

Florence Shapiro
State Senator
(TX 8th Senate Dist.)

Craig Estes
State Senator

(TX 30th Senate Dist.)

Brian McCall
State Rep.
(TX 66th House Dist.)

Jerry Madden
State Rep.
(TX 67th House Dist.)

Ken Paxton
Texas State Rep.
(TX 70th House Dist.)

Jodie Laubenberg
State Rep.
(TX 70th House Dist.)
Your Collin Co. Senate and House Dist. numbers can be found on your 2008 Orange Voter's Registration Card
Texas Republicans, who control the Texas legislative calendar, placed Voter Photo ID legislation ahead of critical legislation in a ploy to generate political talking points against Democrats in the 2010 election cycle. So much legislative time was spent on Voter Photo ID legislation that other critical state business did not come up for consideration before the legislature adjourned on June 1st.

Republicans placed "voter impersonation legislation" ahead of other critical legislation even though Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott failed to find a single case of voter fraud in his $1.4 million two year investigation. According to an article in the Dallas Morning News county election officials across Texas say voter fraud is nearly impossible to carry out in Texas because of the voter validation checks already implemented by every Texas county election office.

Given the factual evidence that voter impersonation fraud does not occur in Texas, Republicans frequently justify pushing the voter photo ID legislation by citing a poll that says 90 percent of Texans demand it. The poll, conducted by Austin-based polling firm Baselice & Associates in April 2007 for an anonymous client, indicates 95 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats support using photo IDs. Baselice & Associates, run by Mike Baselice who is Gov. Rick Perry's pollster, isn't exactly independent given the firm serves Republican clients. [Houston Chronicle]

Rank and file Republicans support voter photo ID legislation as an "article of religious faith that Democratic voter fraud is causing Republicans to lose elections," given their belief America is a "center right" nation and Texas is even further right of center? Reality is that America is already "center left" and Texas is rapidly shifting left.

Royal Masset, the former political director of the Republican Party of Texas, revealed the actual political calculation that requiring photo IDs could suppress enough legitimate Democratic voters, who lack photo ID, that it would add 3 percent to the Republican vote. [Houston Chronicle]

Voter photo ID legislation would be an effective way for Republicans to hold onto Texas, maybe one or two additional election cycles. If Republicans can hold legislative control through the 2010 election cycle, they will control "redistricting" in 2011. This puts the Republican Party in a position to redraw district election maps to advantage Republican candidates as they did in 2003.

“Texans demanded results, and the Republican leadership was unwilling or unable to deliver. Our citizens deserve better than this,” said State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, after the legislature adjourned on June 1st leaving critical legislation to die. [Senator Van de Putte considering a gubernatorial run in 2010]

The Texas Department of Insurance, the Office of Public Insurance Counsel, the Department of Transportation, the Racing Commission and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corp. were due for "sunset review," during the 2009 legislative session.
"Sunset review" is the process by which state agencies are reviewed every 12 years. If lawmakers do not pass bills to renew charters to keep agencies operating over the next 12 year period, they are automatically ordered to close down over the next year.
The Republican controlled legislature did not manage to get to the business of "state agency sunset review," and so, did not renew the charter on these 5 agencies. These agencies are now automatically ordered to close down by Sept. 1, 2010, under the Texas "sunset law."

DMN: Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that he will work with agency administrators of the to look for some solution, short of calling a special session of the legislature, to keep the 5 agencies from closing. While calling lawmakers to Austin for a special session is always an option, Perry said, there could be other ways to save the agencies, which the House and Senate couldn't agree on before their 2009 regular session ended Monday night.

Other than neglecting to renew the charter of 5 critical state agencies, what else did, and did not, happen during the 140 day 2009 regular legislative session: (Summary of the Legislative Study Group's detailed report - PDF)

BECOMES LAW (with or without the governor Perry's signature)
  • Booster seats — Requires children younger than 8 riding in passenger vehicles to sit secured in a booster seat or car seat.
  • Tejano monument — Allows for construction on the Capitol grounds of a monument honoring Texas' Hispanic history.
  • State Board of Education — Requires that meetings be webcast.
  • Shield law — Protects journalists from having to reveal confidential sources to authorities, with exceptions.
  • Windstorm insurance plan — Issue declared emergency by Gov. Rick Perry.
  • Teacher raises — Provides an $800 pay increase for teachers.
  • Prison security — Beefs up security at about a dozen state prisons where contraband smuggling has been rampant.
  • Disabled veterans — Provides homestead property tax exemptions for disabled veterans.
  • Top-tier universities — Seeks to lift some of the state's public universities to national stature.
  • State budget — $182.3 billion for 2010-11, including $1.9 billion increase for public education, $1.2 billion increase for higher education, $2 billion in bonds for new roads, $450 million in bonds for cancer research and a $208 million increase to help people with mental disabilities live in community settings rather than in institutions.
  • State workers — The budget and another measure include a 7 percent to 8 percent pay raise for correctional workers and law enforcement officers and a one-time $800 payment for other state employees.
  • Top 10 percent— Scales back the number of students the University of Texas at Austin would have to admit under the law guaranteeing a spot to those graduating in the top 10 percent of their Texas high school class.
  • Small-business tax cut — Exempts more small businesses from the state's business tax.
  • Doctor loan repayment— Repays medical school loans of doctors who agree to practice in under served areas. Pays for this by changing the way the state taxes smokeless tobacco.
  • Governor's Mansion restoration — The budget and another bill include $22 million to fix the arson-damaged mansion.
  • School accountability — Reduces the reliance on high-stakes testing in lower grades.
  • School supplies tax break — Expands the August sales tax holiday on school supplies to include 25 additional items, from backpacks to scissors.
  • Seat belts — Requires that seat belts be worn in the back seats of vehicles.
  • Tanning — Bans children younger than
  • 16½ from using a tanning bed.
  • State schools — More oversight and security for institutions for Texans with mental disabilities and community homes that serve a similar population.
  • Cell phones — Bans use by drivers in active school zones, unless the driver has a hands-free device.
  • Capital murder — Requires that juveniles convicted of the offense be sentenced to life in prison rather than death.
  • Prekindergarten — Expands half-day prekindergarten programs to full day.
  • Laser hair removal—Requires training and certification for laser hair-removal technicians.
  • Employee Retirement System
  • Increases retirement contribution rate for members.
  • Department of Public Safety — Reauthorizes the state's primary law enforcement agency, with provisions to modernize and streamline management and operations that have been criticized as antiquated.
  • 'Choose Life' license plates — Gives residents the option of buying a license plate that says 'Choose Life.'
  • Cockfighting — Expands laws to allow prosecution of people who raise roosters to fight or own a cockfighting arena.
  • Unemployment insurance — Expands eligibility for unemployment benefits to qualify for $555 million in federal stimulus money.
  • Voter ID — Expands voter identification requirements at polls.
  • Smoking ban — Prohibits smoking at indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
  • Guns on campus — Allows students with state handgun licenses to carry guns on campus.
  • Children's Medicaid — Expands the program by allowing families to enroll once a year instead of every six months.
  • Tuition controls — Restricts tuition increases at public universities.
  • University of Texas Investment Management Co. oversight — Alters the makeup of its board and puts the Permanent University Fund under the oversight of a pension and investment board.
  • Local-option gas tax— Allows metro voters to decide on levies to pay for roads and other transportation projects.
  • Electric cooperatives— Requires member-owned utilities, such as the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, to abide by new rules on open records and meetings.
  • Abortion ultrasound— Women seeking an abortion must be offered an ultrasound.
  • Stem cells — A budget provision prohibiting the use of state dollars for embryonic stem cell research.
  • Veto override — Asks voters to allow the Legislature to convene for a limited time after the biennial legislative session to override gubernatorial vetoes.
  • Trans fats — Bans trans fats from food served at restaurants.
  • Take-home cars — Requires employees who drive state cars on personal errands to reimburse agencies for that personal use.
  • Incumbents on ballots — Designates incumbents on primary ballots.
  • Strip club fee — Lowers a $5-per-patron strip club fee that's being challenged in court to $3 and directs the money only toward programs helping victims of sexual assault, not to health insurance. Another measure repeals the $5 fee and imposes a new tax on sexually oriented businesses.
  • Mezuzas — Prevents homeowners associations from banning mezuzas and other religious objects from home entrances.
  • State Board of Education — Strips curriculum and textbook authority from state board.
  • Solar panels — Starts loan program to help homeowners pay for installing solar panels.
  • Wine corkage —Allows restaurant patrons to bring their own wine and take home what's left in the bottle.
  • Gambling — Constitutional amendment for casinos and slot machines at horse and dog racetracks.
  • Workplace injuries — Clarifies state law to allow injured contract workers to sue work-site owners.
  • Development — Gives Hill Country counties more development authority.
  • Electricity — Allows cities to negotiate power prices for their residents.
  • Power generators — Puts new market share limits on power generators.
  • Utilities — New restrictions on when utilities may disconnect power service for certain disadvantaged customers./li>

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