Apr 30, 2005

LOOKS LIKE CHINA NEEDS A REPORTERS' SHIELD LAW

Looks like Texas is not the only place that is behind the times in not having a reporters' shield law. Poor Chinese reporter will spend ten years in prison because her countries laws haven't kept up with technology or modern thought.

Oops! Texas doesn't have one either!

Maybe I'll be a good neighbor and send them a copy of the one I proposed for Texas, since that bill seems not to be moving.


Post script: For those paying close attention, I realize that this reporter is not being asked to reveal her source. I just wanted to poke fun and compare where Texas is as compared to China on what I call "modern thought."

MISSING GEORGIA BRIDE-TO-BE FOUND- "SHE GOT COLD FEET" AND FABRICATED ABDUCTION

A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico and fabricated a tale of abduction before admitting Saturday that she had gotten cold feet and "needed some time alone," police said.

Now your on national TV honey! You got some "esplaining" to do now!

Check out the AP story for a full account.

Apr 29, 2005

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES OUT EDUCATION BILL

The AP is reporting that a Senate committee approved a major portion of their school finance plan that would add about $2.9 billion to Texas K-12 public schools over the next two years.
The plan would give teachers an immediate pay raise and would increase funding for students who are learning English and bilingual training for teachers.

BUSINESS WEEK'S STORY ON BLOGS

Business Week magazine thinks blogging is good for business:

"Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up...or catch you later."
Click here to read more.

SCIENTISTS FIND CLIMATE CHANGE 'SMOKING GUN'

The Earth is now absorbing so much heat from the sun that the soot and greenhouse gases that humans are putting in the air appear to be the only reasonable explanation for the warming trend, according to research released Thursday by a team of prominent climate scientists.

Click here for the Los Angeles Times story.

VERIFIABLE AUDIT PAPER TRAIL BILL PICKS UP STEAM AND SUPPORT FOLLOWING COMMITTEE HEARING

HB 166, commonly called the paper trail bill, was heared in the House Committee on Elections on Wednesday, April 27. The bill would require that any electronic voting machine that is used in Texas have a voter verifiable auditable paper trail.

I of course support the bill because our voters deserve to have trust and confidence in every ballot cast in the state of Texas. We need to be leaders and show foresight and require that counties use systems that have an auditable paper trail.

The federal government has appropriated money for states to comply with the mandates set forth by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). United State Senator John Cornyn recently announced the release of $74.7 million to Texas for the purchase of HAVA compliant voting systems. Over $100 million in federal funding was set aside more than a year ago for Texas. States have a January 1, 2006 deadline for implementing the new systems.

Texas needs to spend this money now and these machines need a paper back-up. We can not guarantee that the federal government will ever allocate another amount of funds for the purchase of voting machines.

Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Representative Todd Baxter (R-Austin) also had similar bills pending in the committee. The representatives joined as joint authors on our bill, choosing to use our legislation as a vehicle to get a law passed. Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Marshall) and Representative Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) are also joint-authors of HB 166.

This bill has broad bi-partisan support. It is important that voters know that the systems they use have integrity. The testimony that we heard in the committee bears witness to that.

Testimony on the legislation lasted over three hours with an overwhelming number of people testifying in favor of the bill.

The following individuals were shown to be in favor: Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County Clerk; Ken Bailey, Texas Democratic Party; Robert Howard, Libertarian Party of Texas; Deece Eckstein, People for the American Way; Hanna Rittering, Texas - National Organization for Women; Professor Dan Wallach, Rice University; Adina Levin, American Civil Liberties Union; Pat Carleson, Tarrant County Republican Party; Paula Littles, AFL-CIO; Theresa Van Dusen, self; John Berryman, Harris County Work Group, Stan Merriman, Progressive Caucus - Texas Democratic Party; Edna Bogal, Denton County Democratic Party; Charles Schotz, AccuPol; Mary Finch, League of Women Voters; Suzy Wooford, Common Cause; Sonia Santana, self; Luis Figueroa, MALDEF; Tom "Smitty" Smth, Public Citizen; Karen Haden, self; William Brown, AARP; Anna Correa, LULAC.

Apr 28, 2005

CAMPAIGN FINANCE BILL FAILS TO MAKE IT TO FLOOR AFTER TESTY DEBATE

The Austin American Statesman reports on the campaign finance bill (HB1348). HB1348 took the extreme step of trying to use House rules (motion to set as special order) to yank HB1348 out of the Elections Committee where its demise was seemingly foreordained and accelerate its drive to the floor. The maneuver would have taken a four-fifths vote.

The bill has 89 sponsors. The bill clarified the prohibitions on corporate and union dollars in state elections.The bill has 89 sponsors. The bill clarified the prohibitions on corporate and union dollars in state elections.

The debate got a bit testy with some members believing that this was a political maneuver to embarrass the Speaker of the House.

Terry Keel spoke against. Jim Dunham spoke later via a "personal priviledge speech."

In the end the vote was 95 (Ayes) to 36 (Nays), well short of the four-fifths needed.

The AP gives its take on the events.

The SA Express Newspaper gives its take.

The Austin American Statesman gives its take.

A HALT TO THE HENRY CISNEROS PROBE

The Corpus Christi Caller Times rightfully is calling for an end to the $21 million dollar, 10 year investigation into Henry Cisneros.

This investigation has gone on long enough and is a gross waste of taxpayer money.

JERRY BROWN STARTS A BLOG

Former Los Angeles Mayor Jerry Brown, two-time governor, three-time presidential candidate and longtime spiritual scholar, has gone where relatively few politicians dare: The one-on-one, warts-and-all world of the personal Web log.

Click here to read about Brown's new blog.

Apr 27, 2005

IT LOOKS LIKE DELAY HAS A CHALLENGER

The AP is reporting that former Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson made his challenge of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay official, filing documents with the Federal Election Commission.

The filing Tuesday allows Lampson, a Beaumont Democrat, to start raising money for his campaign. Lampson lost his 2004 re-election bid after GOP-led congressional redistricting absorbed some of his district into DeLay's newly formed one.

Lampson announced Friday he would seek the Democratic nomination and said he plans to move into the district to make the bid.

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES WITH PAPER TRAIL BILL TO BE HEARD IN COMMITTEE

HB 166 has been scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Elections today, Wednesday, April 27. The hearing room is located in the Capitol Extension, E2.012 and is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. or upon final adjournment.

This legislation would require that any electronic voting machine that is used in Texas elections have a voter verifiable auditable paper trail.

This bill gives Texas has an tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of establishing an efficient and accountable electronic voting system. Our voters deserve to have trust and confidence in the ballots that they cast. Requiring that these new systems have an auditable paper trail reinforces our commitment to the integrity of the vote.

I would expect that some county's may claim that they simply do not have the money. The reality is that the federal government has appropriated money for the states. Senator Cornyn recently announced the release of $74.7 million so Texas, facing a January 1st deadline, could begin meeting new federal election requirements. More than $100 (M) million in federal funding was set aside more than a year ago for the state.

This state should spend this money wisely on voting machines that have a paper trail. In states where this is used the sky has not fallen as opponents would have you believe. Will keep you posted.

Apr 26, 2005

TEXAS OFFICIALS SHRUG OFF FINE OVER BUSH LAW

The authorities in Texas yesterday shrugged off a fine that the federal Department of Education has imposed on the state because it was late last year in notifying schools and districts whether they had reached student achievement benchmarks under President Bush's No Child Left Behind law.

Click here to read the New York Times article.

Oh! the shame of it all!

THE STATE CAPITOL IS GOING TO THE BLOGS

A good story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram about the rise of blogging at the Texas Capitol. Click here to read the story.

Many of our good friends and must reads from the capitol are mentioned. Here is how some of our good bloggers are described:

"• Burnt Orange Report -- Byron LaMasters of Dallas, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, and friends cover state politics. They support the Democratic party. http://www.burntorangereport.com/

• Off the Kuff -- Charles Kuffner works in information technology in Houston and has written about politics from his blog since 2002. He describes himself as a "moderate Democrat." OffTheKuff.com/mt

• In the Pink Texas -- Former journalist and legislative aide Eileen Smith covers the legislature. She describes herself as nonpartisan. http://www.inthepinktexas.com/

• Pink Dome -- Anonymous Austin businessman and a friend cover the Legislature from a progressive point of view. http://www.pinkdome.com/

• Grits For Breakfast -- Scott Henson, a researcher for the American Civil Liberties Union in Austin, looks at how the Texas Legislature is addressing civil liberties. gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com

• Gaining a Following: Rick Perry vs. the World -- A blog tracking the 2006 race for governor, written by a Houston Republican. http://www.perryvsworld.blogspot.com/"

For those new to this medium, I recommend these and other sites for good, informative, funny and timely information related to the capitol and Texas politics.

A Capitol Blog and Lone Star Rising were both mentioned in the story.

I continue to believe that the internet has made a paradigm shift that has shifted power to the average citizen. Rather than the linear, top down one-way communication comming from the elites to their subordinates, the internet now allows two way and vertical communication to each other.

Many citizens are just now awakening to their new found potential. Like many who are over 40 years of age (45), if it were not for the prodding of my son, I too would find the internet to be intimidating. People who want their government to be more responsive to the interests of the average citizen need to embrace this medium.

I may not be a blog evangelist, but I do believe in that founding principle of our government, that government does best when it serves the interests of the governed, rather than the governed serving the interests of the government.

Apr 25, 2005

INTERESTING READING ON INTERNET POLITICS

Read this article on the changing face of politics and the effect of the internet.

DUST DEVILS FILMED ON MARS BY LAND ROVER

This reminds me of a movie a saw a couple of months ago. One of our land rovers filmed dust devils occurring around it. Click here to view the footage.

Apr 24, 2005

REFLECTIONS ON THE ROAD

The drive home was long and slow. The mind wanders out here, in the long desolate roads of Deep South Texas.

Had a good week. Got the Tejano Heritage Day bill out of commitee. Visited with the Rio Grande Academy of General Dentistry as well as the board of the Texas Academy of General Dentistry as we recognized their successes over the past year. Dr. Joey Cazares held a nice pachanga in his backyard as we welcomed the visiting dignitaries. Helped some other bills out of the floor. Ribbed Rep. Strauss on the successful passage of his first bill out of the House. Lone Star Rising seems to be picking up. More and more other Reps. want to join in.

Despite these memorable events, the most touching moment for me was another encounter with other souls, touched by fire, as they continue on their life's journey.

Rep. Zedler had a bill that attempted to deal with the punishment of individuals who kill children by way of what we have now come to call "Shaken Baby Syndrome."

That night showed true acts of courage from the parents who came forward to testify in memory of their lost child. It took a considerable amount of self control to listen to the torment and pain these parents have seen since the loss of their children.

I did my best to suggest how the bill could be improved and possibly passed out onto the floor. I pray that no one was offended by my questions.

I want to commend these parents as they were beacons of courage and love. I kept a photo of one of the little angels here by my computer. It and the actions of these brave souls will serve as inspiration in the coming days.

To my fellow journeymen who passed in the night, I offer a beautiful bit of prose that continues to bring me comfort :

"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

Aeschylus

Apr 23, 2005

TOASTING THE POWER OF LOVE

The couple say it's a love match, but their marriage weds vast wealth with Republican political potential. The Houston Chronicle chimes in on the Valley's newest power couple.

VOTING AGENCY CHAIRMAN QUITS IN PROTEST

WASHINGTON - The first chairman of the federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough of a commitment to reform. Click on the news story reporting the resignation.

Apr 22, 2005

TEXAS SUPREME COURT SCHEDULES SCHOOL FINANCE HEARING

The long awaited hearing for oral arguments from the Texas Supreme Court on the school finance question has been scheduled for July 6, 2005 at 9 a.m. Check here to view the setting on the Court's website.

Apr 21, 2005

CARNEGIE STUDY: Young Adults Are 'Abandoning' News Papers

A recently acknowledged Carnegie Corporation study finds that a new generation of technology-savvy young people are getting their news in ways that threaten the very viability of newspapers and other traditional news media, according to a study commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The survey of 18-to-34-year-old finds, for instance, that just 19% read a newspaper daily, 17% read it once a month or less -- and 12% said they "never" read a paper to get their news.By contrast, 44% of the young people visited a Web news portal every day, and 37% watch local TV news daily.Only 14% of respondents called the newspaper their "most important" source of news. Local TV newscasts were called the most important source for news by 31% of the young adults, while another 25% cited the Internet.ork.

DONALDSON: NETWORK NEWS DEAD

At a panel discussion Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters' convention Sam Donaldson declared network news dead.

Donald was joined on the panel by CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield and CBS Sunday Morning's Charles Osgood., both of whom were less pessimistic about network news' future.

During their talk the three reporters came out in favor of a federal shield law that would allow journalists to protect the identity of their sources without threat of jail.

All three declared that blogging was helpful to the mainstream media.

Apr 20, 2005

FORT WORTH WEEKLY FEATURE ARTICLE ON REPORTERS' SHIELD BILL

The Fort Worth Weekly magazine has a fine feature article on the journalist privilege by Gayle Reaveson entitled "Broken Shield." The article compellingly argues that "without protection from being forced to reveal sources, journalists can't give voice to the voiceless."

Amen, Gayle! I recommend it to my friends for their reading pleasure.

BURGLARY OF MOTOR VEHICLE-"LITE" PASSED TO SENATE ---- FINAL VOTE 141 TO 0

Well, despite early set backs, just a few minutes ago I passed out on third reading the "lighter," less costly version, of the burglary of a motor vehicle penalty enhancement. The vote was 141 to 0.

This bill provides an interesting case study in the political dynamics of the house and how a bill can die one moment (Dutton's amendment) by overwhelming odds only to come back and pass by overwhelming numbers.

My experience in passing this bill has taught me that one should never give up even when people around you are telling you there is no hope. It also causes me to appreciate the power of quiet negotiations. It should also be noted how lonely those negotiations can be when trying to find middle ground.

Whether this bill ultimately passes the Senate and is signed by the governor is still a question yet to be answered. I will keep you informed.

Apr 19, 2005

"HB 151- LITE" PASSES THE HOUSE

After much negotiations and a little help from my friends we passed to third reading the "three strikes your out" bill on the burglary of a motor vehicle. HB 1324 was a more reasonable option in addressing this problem. It also saved the state about 7 plus million dollars per biennium off the other bill.

Tomorrow it should sail through the House on towards the Senate for consideration. Interesting though isn't it this is the same bill that failed by way of amendment. My sense regarding the polarization effect and how this bill could be passed through quite negotiations was correct.

My thanks for the work done by Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman and my fellow bloggers, more specifically Grits for Breakfast, for their alerting the public and other interested parties to the situation. Of course Senator Whitmire played a huge role in the passage of this bill.

I got beat up in some of my local press and by others (both from the left and the right) for trying to negotiate a more moderate resolution. They seemed to imply that I was naive to believe that I could pass my HB 1324 when the Republicans held such a strong majority.

Oh ye of little faith!

NEW POPE SELECTED

Information from Rome indicates that a new Pope has been selected. If the new Pope follows the example of Pope John Paul the world will be in good hands.

Apr 18, 2005

JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HEARS REPORTERS' SHIELD BILL

Late Monday I had a chance to lay out HB188, the reporters' shield bill. Things went pretty well. Journalists loved it! Prosecutors hated it! The committee members seemed receptive.

All in all, the bill is as the good law professor from U.T stated in a Houston Chronicle article:

"This bill is a moderate, sensible approach to the problem," said David Anderson, a University of Texas law professor. "It's not an absolute privilege, and it's the right way to go about defusing the crisis that has erupted over the last few years."

My friend Eileen from In The Pink-Texas was there being her typical muckraking self (Yes, being called a muckraker is definitely a compliment for a "journalist.").

I want to personally thank all the members of the journalistic community and all other that have shown so much support in the process.

The bill was left pending so that we can fashion a bill that satisfies some of the concerns. In the end my feeling is that sooner or later Texas is going to have a shield law. Senator Ellis and I are working hard to see that it happens this session.

Apr 16, 2005

LAWMAKERS TARGET FEC BLOG RULES

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), are not waiting on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to eliminate possible restrictions on political blogging. These Congressmen want to do it now. Click here to learn more.

Good work gentlemen!

Apr 15, 2005

JOURNALIST SHIELD BILL TO BE HEARD MONDAY

We filed HB 188, the Journalist Shield Bill, and it is up for hearing in the House Judiciary Committee at 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

The shield bill will help deal with the inconsistent nature of state laws on this subject. Many are demanding that Texas join the 31 other states that have a shield law. Delaware has a law that even protects "serious" bloggers. As it stands today Texas does not even recognize a common law, or court created, priviledge for "traditional" journalists.

The shield legislation has been endorsed by a number of newspapers: The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The San Antonio Express, The Corpus Christi Caller and The Austin American Statesman. Even small papers like the Midland paper and the Navasota Examiner endorse it.

Legislation proposing a shield bill has not always received unanimous endorsement from the journalistic or blogger communities. That all changed with a recent federal court ruling out of Washington, D.C. which continued to support a 1972 United States Supreme Court ruling in Branzburg vs. Hayes. That case found that the First Amendment does not afford a constitutional privilege for journalists.

Blogging provides an interesting twist to the definition of journalist, with many people finding bloggers to blur the distinction. Still others think that the shield should not extend to blogs.

Enough with the blogger/journalist debate.

The D.C. case brought print and broadcast media organizations together and for the first time in February of this year consensus was reached in these organizations to support a shield bill.

Senator Rodney Ellis has a companion bill, SB 604, whose original language was recently modified in committee. The Texas Association of Broadcasters has been educating the journalistic community on the bill's progression.

Prosecutors are the remaining opposition to such a bill. The prosecutors continue to monitor the legislation despite the fact that the senate version was watered down. I look forward to listening to their arguments as we continue to fashion some protection for journalists.

Apr 14, 2005

A FATHER'S PROMISE

As many of you may know I left the routines of daily living from my small town four years ago (May 18, 2001) when my heart was ripped from my body with the unexpected loss of our dear son John (16).

Pulled from a very dark and bleak place by faith and the desire to will good away from evil, I promised to commit the remainder of my life to helping others. I promised not to let his life and its loss be in vain.

This commitment is most especially true to others who like my family suffered from the loss of a loved one through crime.

This week (April 10-16) marks the 25th Annual National Crime Victims Rights Week. The efforts to recognize and fulfill the rights of crime victims has been a long one.

Today I took a small step to fulfilling my promise. For a variety of reasons the Crime Victims Compensation Fund in Texas is expected to be insolvent by 2006. Today I passed out of the House of Representatives HB 1751 which would require mandatory restitution to crime victims or to the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Fund. This bill is estimated to recapture an additional $10 million over five years to the crime victims fund.

Texas will now join 29 other states and the federal government in having mandatory restitution laws.

If this bill becomes law, the defendant responsible for the death of the victim may be ordered to pay for funeral expenses. If the defendant caused bodily injury, the court may order the offender to pay the victim's medical or rehabilitation costs and reimburse the victim for the lost income due to the offense.

I walked out of the front steps of the capitol, and on the South-East corner of the lawn, I participated with crime victims and others in a tree planting ceremony in memory of crime victims lost and living, as well as recognition of the special day.

It is a special day! I thank God for the brief time I shared with my son and today's opportunity to make a difference. I have not forgotten you son.

Apr 13, 2005

BLOGGING TEXAS LEGISLATORS - "LONE STAR RISING"

Legislative blogs are still a novel item. So much so that when United States Senator Barack Obama started a blog a few days ago it was a news item.

When I started this blog on the first day of this year as a way of communicating with my constituents in the Valley of South Texas it was a novel item. Although noted as the first Texas legislator to blog from the Texas Capitol, the trend is real and has been equaled by other legislators in other states and at the U.S. Capitol.

Many of my colleagues here want to participate but a real generational block, that stems from an inexperience with computers, stops them from speaking up.

I have for that reason created a new blog called: "Lone Star Rising." This blog will allow many of my legislative colleagues to be involved and available to many of you over the internet.

The first entry is from Rep. Joe Deshotel. The second post is from Rep. Veronica Gonzales. The third post is by Rep. Rafael Anchia. All respected and active participants of the legislature. It is their first posts as bloggers. For that matter, except for Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, it will be the first time for everyone that follows.

As far as I am aware, this is another first for Texas, in that this is the first group blog in the nation by legislators of which I am aware.

At some point, I would expect that many of these members will start their own blogs. Hopefully this will change, to some small degree, your access to some of these fine people.

Democracy unbound indeed!

HOUSE CONFEREES ON CONFERENCE COMMITTEE NAMED

A few minutes ago, Speaker Tom Craddick named the conference committee on Senate Bill 1. They are as follows:

Jim Pitts, Chairman

Vilma Luna

Sylvester Turner

Dan Gattis

Lois Kolkhorst

Apr 12, 2005

IS HJR 35 REALLY DEAD?

Was stopped in the elevator by a freshman (that will go unnamed) who asked me if HJR 35 was really dead. I told him she was definitely dead. He didn't believe me so I took the liberty and called in the mayor and a judge to officially declare the bill dead. Here is their official finding:


(Mayor)
As mayor of the Munchkin City
In the county of the land of Oz
I welcome you most regally

(Judge)
But we've got to verify it legally
To see...

(Mayor)
To see...

(Judge)
If she...

(Mayor)
If she...

(Judge)
Is morally, ethically

(Munchkin 1)
Spiritually, physically

(Munchkin 2)
Positively, absolutely

(Munchkin Men)
Undeniably and reliably dead

(Coroner)
As Coroner, I thoroughly examined her
And she's not only merely dead
She's really most sincerely dead.

And so you have it, directly from the source - it's dead!

It's been a long day. Hope you enjoyed the humor! Must call it a night. We have another long day tomorrow. Until then.


Post script: Good people of Texas, this is simply a bit of humor. In a healthy democracy we, in general, rule by vote of the majority. The majority has spoken on this issue. It is important that we remember that we must continue to live with each other and move on to other issues. If you were and continue to support this issue which failed this go round, you are best served by fashioning good argument and by lining up your votes. I do wish you the best!

TEXAS OBSERVER JOINS BLOG WORLD

The Texas Observer joined the blogosphere today calling their blog the Texas Legislature Observed. Their first blog was posted at 3:13 p.m. today on Senator Shapleigh's SB 667.

Using that same irreverent humor we have come to love from our other companions TLO observed that "oompa-loompas were escorted out of their cages this afternoon to shill for the chemical and mining industry in the Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing." At least seven bloggers will contribute to what should be a successful project.

They went on in their second post to note the death of constitutional amendment, HJR 35 which attempted to cap annual increases on home appraisals at 10 percent.

The third post was about Freshman David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) fine speech.

Anyone unfamiliar with their work and history over the years will be impressed. Welcome gang. We look forward to your posts.

DEBATE BEGINS ON HJR 35 APPRAISAL CAPS

(1:00 p.m.)So it begins.

But before it even begins much has been said about this bill.

(1:10) Rep. Villarreal puts up an amendment to strike the enabling clause that will kill the bill. This may pass because there is strong dislike for the bill. Many Republican members and powerful interests oppose the bill. A flyer has been passed out on the house floor from Bill Hammond with the Texas Association of Business opposing the bill. I predict that Villareal amendment will pass and that this bill will die.

Rep. Howard is at back mike asking to fully debate the bill. He would like the amendments try to perfect the bill. I still suspect most members are opposed to the bill.

(1:20) Rep. Talton at back mike opposed to Rep. Villarreal's amendment.

(1:25) Nixon moves to table and it fails 69 Ayes and 73 Nays. A verification has been requested.

Verification is proceeding to make sure that representatives are present and voted right.

Regardless of outcome, the writing is on the wall-this bill looks mighty dead.

A number of members are missing from the floor.

(1:39) The final verified vote is 66 Ayes and 77 Nays. This bill is dead!

(1:45) Bohac is pretty upset at the front mike. Pleading to allow the process to proceed.

(1:47) Rep. Bonnen also pleads to allow the amendment process to proceed. Turner at the back mike asking that HJR 35 be recommitted to committee. Rep. Bonnen says that it is a reasonable request but wants a decision now. He states that it is a matter of mutual respect.

(1:50) STATEMENT OF THE DAY: Rep. Fred Hill speaks and says "the time to kill a snake is when you have a hoe in your hand."

(1:55) Rep. Carter Casteel brings a voice of experience to the debate. I think she has struck the right cord on the debate: Casteel: "This is bad public policy." "You can't fix this!"

(2:05) Rep. Leibowitz is giving a fine speech for continuing the debate. His trial lawyer training is beginning to show. Regardless of position, this is a fine debater.

(2:13) Rep. McReynolds is giving an impassioned speech saying that this bill has been debated for a considerable period of time. Another fine debater and fine gentleman.

(2:25) The last vote was on tabling the Villarreal amendment. Now the vote is on the amendment directly. The vote on the Villarreal amendment directly is 81 Ayes and 65 Nays. ITS OVER!

This bill has had the best debate I have seen this session.

(2:27) Rep. Bohac realizing the debate is over moves to recommit the bill to committee. His hope is to somehow resurrect the bill after committee debate and amendment.

(2:28) Rep. Fred Hill raises a point of order and it is sustained. That's it folks for this session.

UPDATE - BURGLARY OF A MOTOR VEHICLE, HB1324

Spoke to all the interested parties on my HB 1324 bill, the "three strikes your out" bill, that provides a less costly alternative to Truitt's HB 151.

In order to further the cause, postponed the item a second time till April 19 at 10:00 a.m.

On that day it is time to "fish or cut bait," "go or no go," "it rises or it falls."

I MET A CELEBRITY

Yesterday as I was laying out my Tejano Heritage bill in the State Affairs Committee I had the distinct honor of meeting a real superstar of the blogosphere. IN THE PINK-Texas takes a really fun, informative and irreverent look at Texas politics.

I told Eileen that I have been a big fan for some time. Boy do I wish that the formality of the office did not restrict my ability to poke fun at a few people under the dome who take themselves a bit too seriously. This blog does it so well. The only irreverence I can dish out is the guy on the home page with the tight pants and the funny hat. Keep it up Eileen!

ELECTRONIC VOTING, PAPER TRAILS AND A CLOGGED SYSTEM

Was pleased to see in the Monitor Newspaper a story about Hidalgo County receiving the funds from our state and federal governments for electronic machines. Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams said his office will immediately reimburse the county up to $2.6 million so its more than 350 aging Shoup lever machines can be replaced with touch-screen voting apparatuses.

I must applaud my good friend Hollis Rutledge, the county's Republican Party chairman, who said he wanted the new machines to still produce a paper trail providing accurate backup information in the event of a power outage or machine malfunction. In the story he goes on to say, that the technology should continue to ensure the county does not have another situation like Florida encountered in 2000, with machine failures and irregular vote counts.

Unfortunately, here in Austin it appears the state leadership of the Republican party does not share the Hidalgo County Republican chairman's point of view. Both Senator Shapleigh and myself have two companion bills, HB 166 and SB 94, that would require a paper trail. To date, despite requests these bills have not been given a hearing.

Many citizens and newspapers have called the paper trail element essential to instill voter confidence in the process.

This office along with Senator Shapleigh's office have been working tirelessly on this issue. We examined all the machines. We have spoken to the experts. We even had Commissioner Ray Martinez of the United States Election Assistance Commission come down from Washington to discuss the matter with the working group. Time however is running out and people should understand that their wishes on this issue are being frustrated.

Today I again will request a hearing but I also would call on my Republican friend Hollis Rutledge or any like minded citizen to call Chairman Mary Denny's office and request that this matter be given a hearing.

No we don't need to cause the sort of stink we had at the capitol yesterday just a polite please will do at this point.

Apr 11, 2005

BURGLARY OF MOTOR VEHICLE: STILL SEARCHING FOR SOLUTION

If you have been following closely, back on March 30 we had a lengthy discussion and the passage of HB 151 by Truitt, the burglary of a motor vehicle bill.

Many liked the bill, thinking we needed to address this serious problem immediately. Others thought that the bill was too costly at a time when prison bed space was in severe shortage.

I proposed as a less costly alternative, HB1324 bill, the "three strikes your out" bill.

Unexpectedly, chairman Dutton sponsored an amendment to Truitt's bill which basically mimicked mine. It was soundly voted down.

I believe and still believe that the dynamics of the house and the at times polarized nature of the debate caused Dutton's amendment to fail.

I postponed consideration of HB 1324 until tomorrow, April 12 at 10:00 a.m. to permit some members in the House to digest the fact that the Senate and others are not going to permit HB151's passage.

Today, Senator John Whitmire made it clear that he would not accept Truitt's bill in it's current form. I received at my office an April 6, 2005 Dallas Morning News opinion piece that was distributed at the direction of the senator.

Earlier in the day I had spoke to Rep. Truitt to see if she, and presumably the majority, was prepared for another option, namely HB 1324.

She seemed ready to accept HB1324 as an alternative but wanted one last chance to speak to the senator.

Tomorrow I will continue my negotiations but again invite you my audience to share your opinion with me before I make my next move.

Apr 8, 2005

"LEGISLATIVE UPDATE" -- MCALLEN TELEVISION

Today I visit with a number of constituents who were interested in the state budget and how it affected them as individuals.

Later in the day I visited the television studios for the City of McAllen to participate in their show "Legislative Update" with Jim Darling. This show gives me a chance to use more traditional means (tv) to inform the good people of South Texas what is going on at their state capitol.

I sure hope people are watching because its hand to hand combat at the state capitol with regard to school financing, the state budget, gambling, election procedures and so on. You can always call my state office or e-mail me at aaron.pena@house.state.tx.us on any subject I discussed and I will do my best to respond.

With regards to the tv show, I just want to do my best in answering the questions correctly regarding the voluminous budget we passed out the other day. My wife on the other hand wants to make sure I don't look fat on tv. I think I answered most questions satisfactorily.

Sorry, dear one out of two ain't bad.

Apr 7, 2005

EDWARD APARICIO 1958-2005

Today is the final funeral service for a dear friend. Judge Edward Aparicio is no longer with us and will be dearly missed. He left a wife and five beautiful children. Without question, he was a loving father and devoted to his children.

In life he fought to overcome early poverty, working himself out of the agricultural fields rising to the service as a state district judge. Judge Aparicio was a dedicated advocate for the disabled, the impoverished and the downtrodden.

His presence on this earth will surely be missed.

HOUSE PASSAGE OF UTPA WELLNESS CENTER BILL

Worked late last night. Had to wake up early to get to the house floor to pass out a bill for the University of Texas-Pan American.

Happy to report that the House of Representatives passed my HB 258, the sports recreation and wellness center bill. This will permit UTPA University in Edinburg to build a $24 million dollar, 100,000 square foot project for our students back home.

I want to thank the student leaders who came up to testify on the bill in committee. They truly made a difference. Thanks to Nathan Schwarz, Eric K. De La Garza, and Karla Dreyer. They were joined by John Edwards, Vice Pres. for Enrollment and Student Services.

The passage of the bill was in great part because of their efforts.

THE BUDGET GETS VOTED OUT

Its 2:08 in the morning and we are still here on the House floor finishing up our work. We have spent the prior day, since early in the morning, without break, working on the budget.

Chairman Pitts has done a great job in bringing so many people together to work on this budget. This budget is certainly better than last session's. Many of us believe we could have done better. I certainly will continue fighting to make it better. Many a good amendment went down today.

I pray the conference committee can improve what so many of us worked on for so many hours.

We gave Chairman Pitts a well deserved standing ovation before the bill passed 2nd reading 105 to 41.

We then went on to vote it out on to final passage 102 to 41.

In the end despite my desire to assist my colleagues who worked so hard with me on Appropriations, I could not bring myself to support this bill on this reading.

Tomorrow is another day!

Apr 3, 2005

REFLECTIONS OF THE ROAD

Okay, I got the son married off! I had a great time participating in a community clean up, called the "Trash Bash" in the City of Edinburg. Brownies Troop 25 were great companions on the clean up! Now I have to hit the road with my ever faithful Rosinante. Six hours of love with the highway.

Most of you probably could think of a million better things to do, than driving the Texas highways for six hours. I actually like it. For a guy who is constantly having to have people interactions, six hours alone is like heaven.

I do some of my best thinking on these long trips. For that reason, I would like to introduce a new feature on this blog for those special Sundays when time permits a post on the thoughts of the drive. Maybe a reflection on the events of the week that passed or the week to come.

Today, because of daylight savings time I won't get to Austin until passed midnight. So until next week then.

THE WEBSITE AND THE BLOG UNITE

Many of you in the last two weeks pulled me aside and said, hey when are you going to post or write on your blog again. This troubled me because I have made a determined effort to post often. Then I realized that many people depended on the old address www.aaronpena.org to get to the blog.

You will be pleased to know that this freestanding blog is now directly linked to my personal website. So if www.aaronpena.org is easier to remember then your day has been made easier.

Speaking of uniting, young Aaron or "Ponch" as we call him married his beautiful bride last night. I am pleased to have another campaign worker, excuse me, I meant family member added to the family. Best wishes to both of them!

RICHARD RAYMOND FOR CONGRESS?

Back in early February I revealed to the general public that Richard Raymond was running for Congress against Henry Cuellar. Now its April and we see the newspapers filled with discussions of the race. More specifically we see the first shot across the bow by the incumbent against Rep. Raymond.

I could not help but notice that Mr. Cuellar seems quite worried about his job, as well as he should. What's revealing is that this first attack probably reveals more about the the attacker than its intended victim. I agree with the bloggers at Dos Centavos, this debate should be about policy and not politics.

The better man in this race is clearly the person who can best articulate a vision for the future, for the district he represents. Who bests reflects the needs and desires of this South and Central Texas district? Well that will ultimately be up to the voters.

In my opinion that will be best revealed by positive policy discussions and an examination of the voting history of the various candidates and matching that up with the district interests. I believe I have an idea of who that candidate is, but that is for another day.

For the moment, I for one would like to see a more serious discussion of the issues rather than what we have seen thus far. The people of the district aren't stupid so don't treat them that way. Yes, the representative had a fundraiser. As did Mr. Cuellar on the day of his first attack. Now that that is out of our system. Back to the issues please. The people of Texas deserve better.


Apr 2, 2005

VATICAN SAYS POPE JOHN PAUL II DIES AT 84

Fifteen minutes ago, the Vatican reported that the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter of a century died. He died at 9:37 p.m. in his Vatican apartment. That is 1:37 p.m. central standard time.

May God Bless his soul.

Apr 1, 2005

THE FREE ENTERPRISE AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY FUNDS

Governor Perry's Office asked me to participate in a round table discussion regarding their work on several different proposals regarding the Texas Enterprise Fund. I have been invited to participate and monitor the proposals, each at various stages along the process, so that I can see how decisions are made in this regard.

This fund and the Emerging Technology Fund are up for consideration by the legislature. I will try to participate in each of the regular meetings so that I can assess whether or not these funds benefit my South Texas district and Texas as a whole. While these funds are available I will certainly encourage and assist U.T.-Pan American and South Texas College in the application process.

This post is simply to invite feedback regarding these two funds and to inform you of my participation. What I have seen so far is encouraging. There appears to be a deliberative process and capable individuals in the process.

My initial concerns are in having geographical fairness in any distribution, ensuring the fairness of the process, the ultimate success of the efforts and some yet unresolved philosophical concerns.

At this time I simply want to start the dialogue with my constituents. Please feel free to comment on the blog or reach me at the capitol office.

THE FREEDOM TO BLOG

My relations with my Deep South Texas newspaper have not, until late, been great. Because of the unfortunate actions of one rogue reporter, what should have been a good relationship was soured.

I am and always have been an admirer of good writing and good journalism and past events unfortunately made things a little tough. The good publisher and the addition of "professional" journalists have improved things of late.

And what a friend I have tried to be to the traditional press. After all I introduced and assisted in bringing, at least amongst the traditional players, some relative consensus when there was previously little. As I will later note, I have a dinner meeting next week with Bob Schieffer of CBS News and the Texas Association of Broadcasters in order to solidify our work on the Journalistic Shield Bill, HB188.

Those good relations may continue to improve because of the good comments made towards my new found friends. What a pleasure it was to see my hometown newspaper come out today to take a position in favor of blogging and bloggers. Are some of your actions, good bloggers, comparable to those of our revolutionary fathers? Below is the editorial from The Monitor Newspaper headquartered out of McAllen, Texas. After reading it I can only say bravo, well said.

To quote a line out of my son's favorite Disney movies, "Finding Nemo" one shark says to another at a recovery 12 steps meeting - "Fish are friends, not food." Or as is better said in this context: "Bloggers are friends not the enemy."

Enjoy the moment:

THE MONITOR VIEW

Freedom to Blog: FEC should not regulate computer speech

Can you imagine what fun Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Sam Adams, Patrick Henry and the other founders would have had with Internet blogs? OK, maybe George Washington would have preferred riding his horse. But the others certainly were chatty and prolific writers.

Blog, of course, is short for "WEB LOG," in which people, sometimes daily or even hourly, post their opinions in a kind of diary that anyone with an Internet connection can see.

Anyway, it looks as though the Federal Election Commission has decided to go easy on blogs, and thats a welcome development. Last week it released a memo indicating "that the six-member panel has not decided to impose, but is leaning against imposing, restrictions on independent bloggers or bloggers who work for political campaigns," according to the Washington Post.

"I think that we're trying to use this document as some sort of broad hint that, at least at this stage, we don't plan to regulate the vast majority of what individuals do (online) and the vast majority of what bloggers do," FEC Chairman Scott E. Thomas said.

Part of this may just be an acceptance of reality. PubSub, an Internet monitoring service, estimates there are 8 million blogs, with more added every day. How could the FEC ever keep up with them all? How could it tell whether a blog is advocating politics or just is a history of politics? How could it tell which blogs are created in this country and which elsewhere?

Its "the right decision to leave the blogs alone," said Deborah Pierce, executive director of Privacy Activism, a San Francisco-based group that protects privacy rights. "Obviously there is a very strong First Amendment issue there. Blogs are really like you and I having a conversation, but with a much larger audience. Where do you draw the line between talking with your friends and family about politics in a bar or restaurant and doing the same thing on a blog? Government should not be regulating that type of speech."

The FEC soon will hold hearings on the issue, then this summer or fall vote on it. We encourage the FEC to uphold the First Amendment and rule that freedom of speech includes freedom to blog.