Jun 30, 2005

GOVERNING MAGAZINE: BLOGGING TEXAS STYLE

Texas Bloggers and yours truly are featured in the July issue of Governing Magazine.

Governing Magazine is a national publication read by politicos, politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and people who follow government.

The cover story contains a who's who of the "Texas Blogger Establishment." There, of course is no such thing! It just has a certain ring to it and I like picking on some of you!

Actually this group of bad-news bears misfits is the most anti-establishment bunch you would find in Texas. But in this magazine (refereed to as the "blog corps") they go off looking good, and stuff like that!

As a lobbyist said in the story, the allure of bloggers is that, "....bloggers have the luxury of being able to call bull-bull."

Eileen Smith ("the Wonkette of Austin") of In The Pink-Texas struck a comfortable pose on the front cover of the magazine. Charles Kuffner with Off the Kuff got some ink as well.

Even our conservative blogging brethren were mentioned. David Benzion and Dan Patrick over at Lone Star Times were noted.

Of course the godfather of blogging, though most would not consider him a blogger, Harvery Kronberg, of the Quorum Report was mentioned. Don't worry Harvey, there is room for all of us!

Even my deskmate, Rep. Joe Deshotel was mentioned for starting his own blog (Capitol Weekly) this past May.

Traditional journalists, who have moved over into Texas blogger-dom were also noted. Karen Brooks aka "The Babe of Blogsville" (just joking!) was mentioned she of course does the Dallas Morning News' blog- Chamber Music. Gardner Selby and the Austin American Statesman's Postcards from the Ledge also were mentioned.

The article took note of the "weird relationship" mainstream reporters and bloggers have, "one that is symbiotic and competitive at the same time." But Austin's bloggers were nevertheless, "forcing the dailies, which are fighting to gain younger readers anyway, to adapt."

Unfortunately, there were so many that went unmentioned that should have been mentioned. Like the article stated:

"This year, seemingly from out of nowhere, there is a sort of "fifth estate" in Austin, popped up on the Internet like bluebonnets in springtime. The Texas blogging corps includes political junkies, college students, the producers of a talk-radio show, mainstream journalists, a lobbyist, and a couple of state reps who blog directly from the House floor."

"Like bluebonnets in springtime?" I am sure the powers that be don't agree. But to my brethren of the "fifth estate" I can only say: blog on!

Read all about it right here.

Jun 29, 2005

MARIJUANA CANDY THE TARGET OF LATEST PENA BILL ( HB 74)

A few stories back we came across these Marijuana Candies that were being targeted for sale to children. These are apparently legal. In response,I recently filed HB 74. This story appeared in our South Texas newspapers:

Austin -- As the 4th of July weekend approaches, children across Texas will be enjoying themselves with fireworks, movies and family fun. State Representative Aaron Pena today issued a warning to Texas families that one childhood diversion that parents should look out for is the increased attempts to attract children to drugs.

"We are always aware of the attempts to entice our children into a life of illegal drugs," said Rep. Pena. "We also need to be vigilant for the ever increasing legal attempts to divert our children down the wrong path. Today I filed HB 74 to shut down the legal marketing of the drug culture to our children by the sale of marijuana candy."

HB 74 would make it illegal in Texas to sell candy containing hemp or hemp and marijuana flavoring. While the ingredients in the candies are not illegal, the marketing and packaging of the products may be. Some of the products are sold by the ounce or nickel bag, promoted as 'highly addictive' and 'tasting like the real thing.'

Pena recently took a small group of parents to Spencer's at La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Texas and purchased a number of 'Pot Sucker' lollipops.

"Parents, schools and law enforcement are all working hard to keep drugs away from our children," said Representative Pena. "This candy is unabashedly marketed to our kids as 'Pot Sucker' lollipops and in other forms like 'Chronic Candy'. We can't allow these companies to be making money off our kids while promoting a dangerous and illegal activity."

Other products targeted by Pena's legislation include but are not limited to hemp/marijuana flavored gum drops, gummy bears, chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut butter cups. There are even muffin mixes, jello, and granola cereal containing hemp or hemp and marijuana flavor.

"Banning the sale of these candies and other products will reinforce the message to our kids that drugs are dangerous and they need to stay away from them," said Pena. "The Governor's call is pretty narrow in its scope but I believe that we can address this issue in this special session or if not in the next regular session. Many of our schools and communities spend a significant amount of resources trying to keep kids off drugs. Whether or not we are able to make these candies illegal in Texas we should at least ban the sale of these products to children."

Representative Pena is instructing parents, that in addition to heightened awareness they could ask local businesses to not carry the marijuana flavored candies. HB 74 is a continuation of anti-drug efforts championed by the representative. On July 8th Pena will be addressing the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals Annual Conference on his legislation and will also be awarding a scholarship to a deserving member of the Texas Teens program. The scholarship is named in honor of the late John Austin Pena.

NOTE: For those of you who are interested in learning more here are some other links on the subject:

The Associated Press story on the "Pot Suckers."

The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistence Education) program website notes the problem.

USA TODAY follows the story.

North Carolina responds.

The Daily Texan on our efforts.

Pot flavored pops upset lawmakers. Read here.

Commentary: Read it here.

Chicago is reported to be first city to ban marijuana candy sales.

PAPER TRAIL BILL HITS A ROADBLOCK IN U.S. SENATE

Different dance but same old tune. Why oh why are people so afraid of a little old piece of paper?

Five bills introduced in Congress this year would require voter-verified paper ballots with direct electronic recording (DRE) machines.

But Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said that attaching printers to DREs could cause equipment problems. "It seems we're adding a level of complexity," he said.

Read here.

Jun 28, 2005

HB 2 VOTE: PASSES 77-69

Say it ain't so El Paso! Four members voted for HB 2 and were the difference in the vote. Rep. Paul Moreno stuck with the other border representatives and voted against HB 2.

The second reading vote at 11:26 was 77-69.

The third reading vote at 11:30 was 77-70.

April Castro with the Associated Press gives her take on the 13 hours of debate and the final vote.

HB 2 VOTE ANY MOMENT NOW

The debate on HB 2 has been long and drawn out. Rumors are flying on the House floor about the El Paso delegation votes. If they vote their interests, their votes will be consistent with the other border representatives. The rumor on the floor is that they won't be voting with us. I will be watching and pray that it is not true.

BORDER DRUG WARS CONTINUE UNABATED

As this journal has repeatedly stated the drug wars on the border are real and have devestating consequensess. Here are some of the disturbing stories:

-- Mexican drug gangs defy law in Laredo, sister city. The story.

-- The United States partially responsibile for violence on the border. The CNN story here.

-- The military can not control border violence. The story.

--Some Mexican Drug "special forces" commandos working for the drug cartels. The rogue commandos now known as "Los Zetas" may be heading to U.S. The story.

--44 hostages released along the border; suspected connection to drug wars. The story by the AP.

--Border violence taking a toll.

--Amid border crime wave, Mexico´s Fox calls for stricter punishments for corruption.The story.

WELLNESS AND RECREATION SPORTS COMPLEX TO BECOME REALITY

By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Specialist
UTPA TODAY
gafagan@panam.edu; 381-2741

Students at The University of Texas-Pan American will soon be enjoying a $26 million state-of-the-art Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex, which cleared its final hurdle in the Texas legislature May 25 when both the House and Senate signed HB 258 approving its establishment.

“This facility will give our students and staff an opportunity to pursue a healthy lifestyle and develop healthy lifetime habits,” State Representative Aaron Peña, the legislation’s author, said upon the bill’s passage. “I am proud to get this important legislation to the governor for the benefit of UTPA and its students.”

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, was signed by Governor Rick Perry June 17.

Initiated with the passage of a referendum presented to UTPA students in April 2004, the facility will be funded by a mandatory student fee not to exceed $75 per semester and $35 per summer session. While planned as a student-first facility, the complex will be also available to staff, faculty and possibly alumni with a fee equal to or greater than that of students.

The fees, which will cover the planning, construction and maintenance of the complex, will not go into effect until the facility is built and occupied, projected at September 2007. Construction will begin January 2006.

The complex will be located at the southwest corner of Sugar Road and Schunior Street adjacent to the Bronc Village residential area on campus. The facility grounds will encompass 148,000 square feet, more than 92,000 square feet of which will be an architecturally compatible building housing a weight and cardio room; three indoor courts, one being a multipurpose court that will accommodate indoor soccer and floor hockey; climbing and bouldering wall; four racquetball courts; a three-lane jogging track; student lounge; a meeting/training room; locker rooms; and two aerobics/multipurpose rooms.

Other facilities on the grounds will include a 5,800-square foot outdoor recreational swimming pool and two each of outdoor basketball courts, beach volleyball courts and tennis courts.

Current plans also call for the complex’s 56,000-square foot outdoor area to include a large landscaped portion for outdoor events including band concerts, outdoor movies and festivals.

“We hope it will be the centerpiece of our campus,” said Carlos Caceres, coordinator of campus activities in the Dean of Students office and a member of the Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex Task Force.

Headed by Dean of Students Dr. Jerry Price, the task force is comprised of staff, faculty and students who have been working with architects, engineers and Business Affairs staff in planning the design and budget for the project. Price’s office will oversee the operation of the facility with a center director to be hired in the future.

“We recently had a town hall meeting for members of the campus community interested in the new Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex. We want to make sure students are getting what they asked for,” said Caceres, who noted several suggestions by attendees at the May 3 town hall gathering were incorporated into subsequent architectural renderings of the complex. Periodic updates on the complex’s progression are also planned for the campus community.

Caceres said the task force has taken great care in providing the latest in technology and functionality in the facility that might be needed by today’s and future students, including, for example, the availability of cordless Internet access, as well as ensuring adequate electrical access points necessary for a lot of the current exercise equipment now available. Research on and visits to other wellness and recreational centers on university campuses in the state were conducted to help determine what to include or not to include in the UTPA center.

Price said the Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex will promote the development of a healthier, more active lifestyle that will benefit students the rest of their lives.

“We believe this facility has the potential to transform the campus for our students. First and foremost, it will facilitate students’ interest in, knowledge of, and access to wellness practices that will lead to their living a healthier life, long after they leave UTPA. However, we also are confident the complex will be an attractive place for our students to gather and interact all hours of the day, which will greatly enhance the social climate of the campus,” he said.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS' GREATEST SPEECH

Here is an article on one of my greatest heroes--Frederick Douglass. Although Martin Luther King rightfully deserves our respect for his efforts and his oratory ("I Have a Dream"),Douglass' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" is in my opinion America's greatest pieces of oratory.

The story.

Here is a look at Douglass' Oratory.

JUSTICE SOUTER'S RULING MAY JEOPARDIZE HIS LAND TO EMINENT DOMAIN

Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

The story starts here.

Political cartoonist are having a field day. Look here.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: GOP MAKING INROADS INTO HISPANIC VOTE

Let the word go forth! Another article supporting the point I made earlier. Here is the San Francisco Chronicle story.

BLOGGERS FIGHTING GOVERNMENT REGULATION

Read here about how the blogging family is fighting government regulation.

SENATOR JOE BIDDEN STARTS A BLOG

Senator Joe Bidden started a blog today. Click here to read "unite our states blog."

SA-EXPRESS: THE SUPREME COURT MAKES A MISTAKE

Today I became a co-author in HJR 19 to address the problem brought on by the recent Supreme Court ruling of Kelo v. The City of New London. This will be one of the many vehicles I will support to handle the potentially disasterous circumsances that now exist as a result of the ruling.

The San Antonio Express jumps into the debate with an opinion piece. Read it here.

Jun 27, 2005

TEACHERS SALARIES AT A GLANCE

Okay so we all know Texas fails to pay its teachers at the national average. But what are the real numbers, state by state?

Here they are. Now lets get moving!

U.S. SUPREME CT. SPLIT ON TEN COMMANDMENTS DISPLAY

The Ten Commandments on the Texas Capitol grounds are okay as part of legal and religious history however ten commandments in a courtroom are not okay.

The Court in a 5-4 decision tried to draw a line that is sure to leave many dissatisfied. Here is the AP story.

Jun 26, 2005

TEJANO DEMOCRATS LEADER SAYS HISPANICS' LOYALTY SHOULD BE TO IDEAS

Participated in a wonderfully unified convention this weekend. The Tejano Democrats had their annual convention in San Antonio. As the state chair of the organization I am pleased to report that I passed the torch to a wonderful gentleman, Phillip Ruiz, who was unanimously supported by the delegation.

San Antonio Express columnist Carlos Guerra, long time chronicler of politics in Texas, was there and noted the widely felt displeasure that state party leaders were nowhere to be found and a growing feeling of neglect and indifference. That article is found here. Here is an out-take where I was quoted:

"Outgoing Tejano Democrat Chairman Rep. Aaron Pena of Edinburg spoke frankly about his group's frustrations with state and national Democratic organizations and warned their leaders not to assume that Latinos will remain blindly loyal to a party they aren't entirely happy with.

"In the early days of GI Forum and LULAC, (Latinos) tended to speak with one or few voices because we had common experiences, common goals and common adversaries," Pena said. "But increasingly, as the Latino community matures, our experiences are becoming more diverse, so now, the Tejano Democrats are just one voice among many.

"For those who think we need one organization and one leader, that is the wrong course of history, and it isn't a healthy course," he said, adding that Latinos would be wise to determine their support on the basis of self-interest.

"Whether it be Republicans or Democrats, the future of Texas is going to be Latino," Pena concluded. "The Democratic Party was our worst enemy not too long ago; so I think it is ideas we have to attach ourselves to now, not vehicles. And whichever party most reflects the desires and needs of this community, in its various facets, it is the one that will succeed."

I know that my brothers over at Dos Centavos understand the point I was making. They and the organization they represent are two of the many voices of which I was referring.

Was paid a visit by statewide candidates for office and their story is the subject of another San Antonio Express story.

Rarely have I spent this much time in this journal talking about "Hispanic politics." Why this momentary diversion? This discussion should not be the sole concern of Hispanics, it is of concern to all Texans. Continued neglect of this growing community will have political consequences. This post and the posts that follow are all meant as friendly notice to those who may care about the politics of this state from a long time observer.

I wish the new state officers the best as I will move on from party politics to concentrate all of my free professional time on my legislative work and serving all the citizens of my district and this wonderful state of Texas.

DEAN:"DEMOCRATS MUST CULTIVATE HISPANICS"

Dean seems to have recognized what the tea leaves are saying. Why has Texas seemingly missed out? Read the Dean story here.

Here is a second (unrrelated to Dean) story of how Hispanics are walking out of the Democratic Party.

"MIDDLE CLASS VOTERS VOTING REPUBLICAN"

Here is a story about a study containing a real wake-up call to the Democratic Party. Is the middle class voting Republican?

The report also contained alarming news for Democrats about Hispanic voters. The more Hispanics move into the middle class, the less they vote Democratic.

Based on the analysis of exit polls, Kerry's margin over Bush among Hispanics with household incomes below $30,000 was 21 percentage points, but among those with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000, it was 10 points.

VOTING FOR ELECTION REFORM

Mother Jones has a nice story on the importance of voting for voting reform. Paper trail anyone?

Jun 24, 2005

REP. TERRY KEEL FILES AND ANNOUNCES CT. OF CRIMINAL APPEALS RUN

My colleague Terry Keel is running for the court of criminal appeals and today took a step in that direction by formally filing for the job. He will be tough to beat. I see him as the front runner in the race.

TEJANO DEMOCRATS STATEWIDE CONVENTION IN SA TODAY

The State Tejano Democrats are having their state convention in San Antonio beginning today at the Clarion Riverwalk at 110 Lexington Avenue.

Registration begins today at noon.

Scheduled speakers for Saturday's luncheon at the Clarion hotel include Chris Bell, possible Democrat candidate for Governor, Barbara Radnofsky, possible Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Keynote Speaker for the event is Congressman Mike Honda, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Your truly will be stepping down as the state chairman of the Tejano Democrats and will be passing the torch so that I can devote my time to legislative duties (and blogging).

GI FORUM STATEWIDE CONVENTION IN SA TODAY

The American GI Forum is having its state convention in San Antonio beginning today at Radisson Market Square at 502 W. Durango Blvd.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. and general assembly starts at 1 p.m.

The scheduled keynote speaker is state Rep. Frank Corte, (R) from San Antonio.

Jun 23, 2005

TEXAS FREEDOM NETWORK RELEASES LEGISLATIVE RANKINGS

Our thanks to Pink Dome for locating the legislator ratings by the Texas Freedom Network on education related matters.

Legislators were ranked with an "Exemplary," "Recognized," or "Academically Unacceptable."

Here are the rankings of your favorite legislator.

Here is the Texas Freedom Network press release.

Was pleased with the "Exemplary" ranking the group gave my office. We had a number of committed staff members who helped in the effort.

GENDER GAP TRENDING TOWARD DEMOCRATS

A recent poll shows the gender-gap swinging back to the Democrats. Here is the scoop.

POT FLAVORED LOLLY-POPS ANGERS MANY

I just could not believe it when I came across this story.

Marijuana-flavored lollipops with names such as Purple Haze, Acapulco Gold and Rasta are showing up on the shelves of convenience stores around the country, angering anti-drug advocates

If our kids did not have enough temptations. I am going to keep an eye on this product.

Here is MSNBC's story.

R.G. RATLIFF: PERRY'S PLAN HELPS RICH OVER THE POOR

Was talking with Liz Pearson at the Monitor the other day about how superficial observations of the Perry plan needed to discarded until a detail analysis was looked at.

R.G. Ratliff, respected political writer at the Houston Chronicle, has crunched the numbers and the report does not look good.

His observations listed in the article conclude that the plan hurts the poor more so than the rich.

SA-EXPRESS: DON'T CUT FUNDING TO PBS

Without a doubt some on the extreme right are interested in doing harm to the Public Broadcasting System. The San Antonio paper rightfully takes a stand.

Here is their editorial.

Here is an additional story by the LA Times regarding their difficult position: "In For The Fight of Their Lives!"

The Seatle Post adds it's two centavos here.

RECENT POLL SHOWS HUTCHISON OUTPOLLING PERRY

The Austin American Statesman story shows Hutchison with a commanding lead over Perry. The article raises the question as to why she did not run.

IS THE GAMBLING ISSUE STILL ALIVE?

One of my close friends who supports the expansion of gambling sent me this article from our neighboring state.

Jun 21, 2005

FIRST CALLED SPECIAL SESSION STARTS

Well, we did check-in at least! The first called special session started today. We were given basic instructions and then released till Monday. Forty-five minutes or so that's all it took.

But why so little time spent when "potentially" the schools may not open as a result of the governor's veto? Let me set you somewhat at ease, to the degree anyone can remain at ease when the legislature is in session. First of all the governor's veto does not spell impending doom as many would have you believe.

The vetoed monies goes to the LBB, the legislative budget board, who then has the discretion to spend the monies as they see fit. If a problem arises, the LBB steps in and resolves the money shortage.

Second, after bills are filed they must begin with debate in committee, and all relevant committees will be working between now and Monday.

Thirdly, bargaining chip bills have to be introduced to be used for leverage in completing the deal. Rep. Geanie Morrison filed the much needed TRB, tuition revenue bond, bill HB 6 that I previously spoke about. This bill is much needed to allow growing universities, like UT-PA to keep up with their student populations. I am listed as a co-author on the bill.

Another such bill, the judicial pay raise bill, HB 11, was filed by Rep. Will Hartnett.

Don't get me wrong these bills are on their own important. And for some like the border representatives, more important to them than in others. But that fact is well known, and will be the source of negotiations.

Forth and most importantly, negotiations are continuing in order to find common ground, which still has not been reached.

Bottom line, it may not look like we are getting anywhere, but we are... in a Texas House of Representatives kind of way!

And so, as I leave the building, I am reminded of my 10 year old son who would find this an opportune time to quote the elusive and wacked-out penguins from the recent movie, Madagascar, as they try to escape the zoo: "cute and cuddly boys, cute and cuddly!"

The AP picks up the story here.

Jun 20, 2005

BACK IN AUSTIN TO FILE TEACHER PAY RAISE LEGISLATION

As soon as I received word that the governor was calling a special session, my staff and I have been preparing our teacher pay raise legislation. Although the session starts tomorrow, I pre-filed HB 18 which is our proposed across the board pay raise for public school teachers.

I was pleased to see that Governor Perry acknowledged that teachers needed a pay increase and was also pleased to see that he included it in the "call" of the session.

Many of us will be working to advance this effort and I would encourage all interested parties to stay engaged on the issue.

MCALLEN ELECTS MAYOR IN BITTER ELECTION

With one of the dirtiest McAllen mayoral campaigns having come to an end with Cortez winning by 198 over Godinez, it is now time for the bitterness, sometimes exhibited in nasty e-mails, to come to an end.

Although I don't totally agree with the unflattering terms used by others to describe the results of the election, it is a race nevertheless that should be examined by people who are concerned with the unfriendly and coarse direction politics has taken in South Texas.

As a concerned father and now a concerned citizen of the larger community I have been compelled to comment on the sad state of discourse in the city.

Although I have yet been unable to speak to Cortez about his supporters actions, which brought an unflattering light on the city, I still am confident and hopeful that with time he will be able to perform his job and restore some measure of dignity to the city.

The majority has spoken! Let the past pass away! Let us learn to move forward!

My best wishes to the citizens of McAllen and its new mayor!

Jun 18, 2005

ITS OFFICIAL! SPECIAL SESSION TO BEGIN TUESDAY

The Governor is calling a special session beginning Tuesday at 12:00 noon. He vetoed the education budget before calling the special session.

NOTE: AP reports on the call.

LIST OF PERRY'S FRIDAY VETOES

HB 0511 (Hochberg, Vo, Herrero, Leibowitz)

Relating to the processing of consumer rebates.

HB 1896 (Hodge, Madden, Allen, Ray, Haggerty)

Relating to the application of laws awarding credit to an inmate for time between release on and subsequent revocation of parole, mandatory supervision, or conditional pardon.

HB 2193 (Madden, Turner, Allen, Ray, McReynolds, Haggerty)

Relating to the operation of a system of community supervision.

HB 2525 (Callegari)

Relating to contracts by governmental entities for construction projects and related professional services and to public works performance and payment bonds.

HB 2572 (Truitt, Isett, McReynolds, Miller, Coleman)

Relating to the functions of local mental health and mental retardation authorities.

HB 2667 (Dutton)

Relating to the election of a director of a municipal utility district.

HB 3016 (Hill)

Relating to the determination of the market value of certain drug supplies for ad valorem property tax purposes.

HB 3152 (Escobar, Hodge)

Relating to procedures applicable to waivers of the right to counsel.

SB 0433 (Wentworth)

Relating to the authorization of airport districts and the issuance of bonds and the exercise of eminent domain by the districts.

SB 0757 (Armbrister)

Relating to property in the custody of a pawnbroker; providing criminal penalties.

SB 0833 (Barrientos)

Relating to the required use of tax increment financing to provide affordable housing in certain reinvestment zones.

SB 1195 (Hinojosa)

Relating to the authority of peace officers to conduct certain searches.

SB 1203 (Madla)

Relating to the payment of certain ad valorem tax refunds.

SB 1246 (Brimer)

Relating to local option elections in certain populous areas on the sale of mixed beverages by food and beverage establishments.

SB 1433 (Madla)

Relating to the conditions of employment for firefighters employed by certain districts and entities; providing penalties.

SB 1440 (Hinojosa)

Relating to the use of sales tax revenue to pay or secure certain municipal public securities.

SB 1555 (Gallegos)

Relating to taxes, assessments, and impact fees imposed on residential property by the Greater East End Management District.

SB 1821 (Fraser)

Relating to the creation of the Flatrock Springs Municipal Management District; granting authority for taxation and the issuance of bonds.

SB1867 (Jackson, Mike)

Relating to the creation of the NASA Area Management District; providing authority to impose an assessment, impose a tax and issue bonds.

BONILLA SEEKS RE-ELECTION TO CONGRESS

For all those who had hoped to see Harvey Hildrebrand in Congress, you may have to wait for another day. Congressman Bonilla has decided in light of the Hutchison announcement to forego his attempt at the United States Senate.

I would note, that the congressman may want to look behind him, his district (thanks to mid-term redistricting) now makes him vulnerable from within his Republican ranks. Time to pray the big boys remember who you are and come to your aid.

San Antonio-Express has the story.

SENATOR HUTCHISON SEEKS THIRD SENATE TERM WHILE AIMING FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

U.S. Senator, Hutchison has decided not to challenge Governor Perry in the March primary and will seek re-election to the U.S. Senate. The much expected fight between the moderate and conservative wings of the Texas Republican Party will not be on the national stage as so many had expected. That fight will continue on a smaller stage here at the state capitol.

It seems as though Republicans figure that Sen. Hutchison will be a good response to Sen. Clinton should she be on the presidential ticket.

The DMN has the story.

TEXAS AGAIN FALLS BEHIND THE NATIONAL AVERAGE - RANKS 33rd ON LATEST RANKING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS SYSTEMS

PinkDome points out another one of those poor showings Texas makes over and over again. The findings of the Education State Rankings, a survey by Morgan Quitno Press of hundreds of public school systems in all 50 states. States were graded on a variety of factors based on how they compare to the national average. Massachusetts is rated the smartest while Texas is tied at 33rd with West Virginia.

Senator Shapleigh can add this one to his list.

Surely we can do better than this! And we are about to go into a special session were some people will actually try to argue that Texas children are only entitled to an adequate education.

Wake up folks, our state demographer Steve Murdock has published his foretellings long ago and we are rapidly on the path of fulfilling the prophesy.

Jun 17, 2005

HUTCHISON TO WAIT UNTIL AFTER SESSION TO MAKE ANNOUNCEMENT

Special Session we are told will be announced Saturday, same day grandma Strayhorn makes her announcement. Sen Hutchison says she will wait till after the special session to make her announcement of her own plans.

And so the end has come......

The board is set, the pieces are moving. We come to it at last! So begins the epic battle for the soul of the Republican party.

In the end, one must ask, who is it that will control the ring of power? Or in the final end, will it will be the ring of power that consumes those who attempt to control it!

Frodo?

AP: SPECIAL SESSION ANNOUNCEMENT TO BE MADE SATURDAY

The Associated Press issued a story wherein Senator Shapiro says formal special session announcement to be made Saturday. The session to begin on Tuesday.

This of course is the same day "One Tough Grandma," Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is expected to announce whether she will challenge Perry in the 2006 governor's race.

Time to fix what needs fixing!

Jun 16, 2005

THE RISE OF THE FIGHTING MODERATES!

The Texas Observer has a great story covering this last sessions greatest moment. I for one am very proud to have partnered with my Republican colleagues on this critical issue. Two of my good friends, Rep. Casteel and Rep. Griggs, both Republican members, have been an inspiration to many including myself. They are highlighted in the story.

May the future of Texas be guided by good public policy based on the needs of the people and not that on the whims of the powerful few.

SPECIAL SESSION?

If there is one question that nearly every individual confronts me with as I go about my civilian life during these dog days of summer it is: Do you think there will be a special session?

My answer is always, yes. Too many things need to be done that were left undone!

School finance is the big one I agree, but there are also a number of other items, like tuition revenue bonds for growing universities like UT-PA for example, that were left on the table uncompleted.

It will be these smaller items, continued negotiations, plus other political considerations that I won't expand upon at this time, that will be the impetus for a special session. I am still standing by my earlier prediction of a special session at the end of this month.

Will a solution be reached on school finance during the foretold special session? Not if history is any judge of success. Remember people who weren't exactly political lightweights like George Bush and Bob Bullock have all been down this road before. With regards to education, Texas has unfortunately been guided by court decision to get it moving.

This representative is ready to give it a go! Here is the answer in a nutshell: Texas needs to support a high quality public school system. All Texans should have equal access to a high quality education.

Texas politicians have not historically supported either because they are afraid to make tough political choices because they think Texans are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal. Polls will tell you that this is false, Texans value a quality education for their children over all else. It is the political figures who are unwilling to exhibit leadership on this issue not the average Texan.

I for one am ready, I know what I need to know. Texans shouldn't depend on court's to manage their state.

Come on Governor, pull the trigger, let's give it a go!



LATE NOTE: The Quorum Report has late this night confirmed from a reliable source that special session is imminent, possibly Tuesday.

LATE, LATE NOTE: SA Express chimes in as well. They think Thursday.

Jun 15, 2005

DEDICATION OF VETERANS' NURSING HOME IN VALLEY

Yesterday morning we had a good dedication ceremony to the new "Freddy Gonzalez Memorial Nursing Home" which sits in the Medical Center in McAllen, Texas. This center was long overdue. I was pleased to have participated in the competitive selection process. This was a joint effort between state and federal authorities.

The event was crowded with veterans and their families. It warmed the heart to see so many brave servicemen who rightfully earned a place where they could retire in comfort close to their loved ones.

I had the opportunity to address the audience where I thanked them for their service. The Valley is home to so many proud Veterans.

The Monitor newspaper covered the event.

Jun 11, 2005

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE GONE?

Where have all the good people gone? It's a question I'm always asked. My response is always that politics is full of good people, you just have to look for and appreciate them.

It is the few dishonorable figures that seem to make the headlines, that seem to spoil public service for the many who serve honorably. This week because of recent incidents I too am struggling with the same question -- where have all the good people gone?

Many of you have noted (Pink Dome, Politico, Rio Grande Valley Politics, Republic of the Rio Grande)the difficult news I received on Wednesday. I returned to Texas upon learning that my son, Aaron (25) was attacked outside a polling place as he worked on a mayoral campaign in McAllen, Texas. He was sent to the hospital with a broken nose and and an injured back. His wife who was 7 1/2 months pregnant was by his side when he was knocked unconscious was also sent to the hospital and delivered my grandson prematurely.

The man who attacked my son and another college student has been arrested and charged with two counts of assault. It appears as though the attacker has had several other problems with regards to physical violence towards others. Hopefully the legal system will hold this man accountable for his actions. I say hopefully because here like so many other places hope is all you have when dealing with politics and the judicial system.

I had hoped that the mayoral candidate, Richard Cortez, would be honorable enough to apologize for his supporters actions, but despite my public invitation he has not seemed to be able to bring himself to do that. The local newspaper, The Monitor, has also asked that he apologize to the City of McAllen.

Today I traveled to McAllen to visit for the first time the polling place where my son's blood still stains the cement. I went to pick up my daughter who has now chosen to volunteer her services so that my son would not be missed while he recuperates.

I had hoped to find and meet the ever elusive candidate, Cortez to see if he could provide me an explanation for his failure to show any concern for the welfare of my injured family members. Maybe, I thought an apology would be forthcoming, because his excuse thus far has been that he did not know where to get a hold of me.

When I arrived and began shaking a few hands at the polling place I noticed Cortez had noticed me and had immediately scampered off to his car where he drove away. I don't have to describe what I thought of that, because you probably are thinking the same thing.

The rather large individual who assaulted my son was still there, despite statements by Cortez and the police that he should not be there, he apparently feels it is important to be there. Fortunately or unfortunately, his actions have made the polling place well fortified with police who have been brought in, that I felt comfortable being there.

This election will all be over soon - June 18. Hopefully the good guys win in McAllen. For most of you it will be another example of why good people refuse to get involved with politics. I would hope not. Take the example of my daughter who chose to hold her ground and fill her brothers shoes in his absence. If the good chose not to participate then who remains?

Take comfort that most people who behave irresponsibly in politics when confronted will act as did the would-be mayoral candidate in this case - they run away! Alternatively, like the brute who struck my son they will be caught, arrested and held accountable.

The good people are still here and we're not running away from our duty to participate.

Jun 8, 2005

TIME MARCHES ON

Saw several inches of snow here at the conference. A very beautiful place indeed. Mountains, fresh air, a roaring fireplace to sit and read at the end of a long day of committee meetings.

Not a bad place to be on any day, let alone your birthday. Yes, its true The Rep. is 46 years old today. I don't feel any different. Oh, yeah the body doesn't agree on occasion, but all in all, I'm not any different from the guy who married his wife here fourteen years ago.

I took a number of calls on my cell phone this morning wishing me a happy birthday. Time does cause you to appreciate friends, community and the people we love. I guess birthdays as you reach the age of 40 and above are about reflection and self-examination.

I took my wife by the place where we were married here in Tahoe all those many years ago. The small quaint chapel sat on a bluff overlooking the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. It was called "Love's Chapel" and it was a small and beautiful Victorian chapel that sat in the snow in a picturesque part of the Valley. It was run by a Reverend Love who performed our small ceremony.

We found the bluff overlooking the lake. But like the ravages of time that I today am reminded of, "Love's chapel" has made way for a boring string of seemingly similar office buildings and a parking lot -- a home for dentists offices and tax accountants.

Say it ain't so Dr. Love! Does the passage of time mean a slow degeneration of all we hold dear and beautiful?

I came back to the hotel and searched the internet to find out what happened to "Love chapel." I found this post:

"Lake Tahoe's Famous Love's Wedding Chapel has given way to the progress of time. After 32 years of serving the needs of thousands of brides and grooms, Loves wedding services is relocating to provide our contribution to the magnificent redevelopment program currently in progress in our beautiful south lake community."

Each time I feel the pains of age or the memory fails me, I too will remind myself that I too am going through a, "magnificent redevelopment program."

Ignoring the public relations and commercial falsehood's that are all to common in our modern lives, in the deep recesses of memory forever sits a small beautiful Victorian chapel on a snow filled bluff overlooking a clear blue lake where two young souls confessed their love.

Forty-six years of memories with many more to come, not such a bad deal!

Jun 6, 2005

"BRAVO!"--DMN FOR COVERAGE OF BORDER DRUG WAR

I had given up hope with the press and some business leaders who have tried to downplay the drug war that is occurring along the border. People are dying at an alarming rate and manner that would shock most Americans if it occurred near their city.

The Dallas Morning News has not backed away from its coverage of the carnage on the border. These crimes are occurring in my backyard. It may not be pretty and may not sell widgets but it can no longer be ignored. Read Tracey Eaton's story here. Thank you, DMN!

BLOG EVANGELISM FROM TAHOE

Taking time away between the recently ended regular session and the impending special session to spend time with my wife in the mountains of Northern California.

This blogging trend and the work we did last session, caught the attention of The Council of State Governments, who invited me to speak at the conference of legislators from around the country. I shared the speakers podium with fellow blogger, State Representative, Stephen Urquhart (R) and "blogging coach" Griff Wigley who "coaches" legislators in Minnesota.

I have never heard of a "blogging coach" but he seems to be a blog director or manager. He has been doing this for some time and appears to be one of the founders in the medium.

The conference has been going well. We were well received. Looks like blogging is going to the legislators. There goes the neighborhood!

One item of note, liveblogging from the floor of the legislative body seems to be a novelty that no one has tried, even amongst the experienced members. They were curious about how that came about and how people reacted.

I haven't spent much time in the surrounding area but I did pick up this one tidbit of bumber sticker Americana. The popular bumbersticker up here is "Keep Tahoe Blue!" This works on a number of levels. How about "Keep Austin Blue!"

Courtesy of my new friend, Griff Wigley, click here to see photos of the conference off of his site.