Thursday, May 24, 2007

Todd Smith has filed HR 2669 and 2671

Over the past two weeks, there has been a lot of talkin without a lot of walkin over a new Speaker's race. Quorum Report has followed some of the pork Craddick has given to certain districts, the daily blogs report that latest gossip, and Paul Burka has predicated that every member will run for Speaker.

There's been speculation as to whether this would happen by next session or before Sine Die, and Byron Cook even made a passionate speech about tyranny and Hell that was followed by a pretty loud thud. Patrick Rose walked away from the Speaker, taking Eddie Lucio III with him, only to discover that the other candidates didn't want his support, so he returned to Craddick on his knees, who in turn told him not to let the door hit his ass on the way out. And Dukes never left Craddick's side.

Today, however, Republican Todd Smith filed two resolutions, HR 2669 and HR 2671, today May 24, that would vacate the speaker and hold a new election. HR 2669 would provide that each ballot contain the member's name, and HR 2671 would provide a secret ballot.

Why Todd Smith? When Craddick and Jimmy Leininger did a push poll in his district a year ago to see if he was vulnerable, Smith retorted: "This is the robotization of the Republican Party. If you are not prepared to read off of a pre-approved script, you need not apply."

Word has it that Saturday afternoon could be the time, well after what Cook and Rose had predicted. So far, there are a total of five candidates: the incumbent Craddick, Jim Keffer, Jim Pitts, Brian McCall, and Fred Hill, but right now it's tough to say who has it.

New PACs are formed every day, but there's a new one, Ronald Reagan Republicans for Local Community Control and Speaker Term Limits, that would pull in money for Republicans not on the Speaker's agenda and would give cover to Byron Cook and presumably Todd Smith.

In terms of the best strategy, it's obvious that the insurgency wouldn't be anything more than ceremonial now, so when would be the best time to pull the trigger? Before Sine Die? Or just focus on the next election cycle, when more moderate Rs/more Ds will be pulled in? It's obvious that anti-Craddick PACs will be formed regardless of what happens over the next five days, but Rs may be concerned about Craddick adding that zero to his war chest, so the less power (real or perceived) he has over the next 18 months, the better chance he won't be Speaker next session.

But given that it's clear there's no clear consensus since no one had the votes a few days ago when Rose was shopping his nomination speech, I wouldn't be surprised if the moderates are as disappointed at the end of the session as much as they were at the beginning.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It has been a busy week

Too busy, in fact, for me to write anything. Hopefully I'll recoup over the weekend. Here's some links:

Grits on Needle Exchange bill, which is coming up Monday in the House Pub Health Committee. Chair Delisi once vowed to never let it out of committee, but her willingness to give it a hearing shows it's still alive.

Gov. Perry overturns his own HPV order

Rep. Paul Moreno retires

Grits on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, which was killed on a point of order by Rep. Merritt. Zedler has another bill up today, HB 904, which would have the state inappropriately enforce federal immigration law. HB 904 would restrict funding for day labor centers.

And last but not least, Craddick Crashing?

Monday, May 07, 2007

It'll be a busy couple of days

Now that most of the religious debates are finally over, the House will now hear 140 bills over today and tomorrow. Well, they actually have no chance in hell getting through them, but that's what's on the Calendar. Here's a brief look at what to expect at some point in the near future:

  • HB 9 Rep. Crownover's bill to ban smoking across the state. Although there are merits to this argument, I've always been a big fan of improved ventilation systems in bars and restaurants in lieu of telling them how to act. I'm not a smoker and can't stand the smell on my clothes, but smokers should be able to enjoy smoke over a beer.

    This may take a while since Rep. Dutton is fighting hard to gut the bill, and he's run into Rep. Hartnett who's apparently been talking to owners of cigar bars and flip flopping on where he stands. But Capitol Letters has this insight:

    Crownover's calling it an "employee safety measure" - which I suppose is a little true. But really, what it's about is levelling the playing field. The places in the cities that are banning smoking are losing business to the places that haven't, just a city limit away.

    THAT'S why the restaurants got on board.

  • HB 1927 The tort reform bill for the MTBE fuel additive by Rep. Chisum. The federal government at one point mandated that oil refineries add a substance called MTBE to fuel in an attempt to clean it. However, the way it was carried out polluted groundwater wells across the country, and à la Erin Brockovich, people began suing responsible parties. Rep. Chisum stepped in to cut back on the number of lawsuits.

    There's one small twist to this: many small, independent gas stations are technically responsible for leaking the fuel additive, but there's evidence that they had no way of knowing about it, let alone how to stop it. But, this doesn't change the end result - polluted groundwater - and the appropriate answer should be a join effort to clean it, not to protect some from liability and absolve them of responsibility.

  • HB 2006 The omnibus eminent domain bill by Rep. Woolley that's designed to grant more property rights to private landowners. It's continuing the work of SB 7, which was passed in response to the June 2005 SCOTUS decision. Rep. Woolley says that she doesn't want to stop eminent domain, she only wants to encourage agreements and negotiations before any eminent domain.

    I'm guessing this will be a big ol' Christmas tree with all the rural folk trying to tack on amendments for local fights. Remember Rep. Oliveira tacking one on to SB 7 to prevent UT-Austin from leveling a hamburger joint?

  • HB 13 The omnibus homeland security bill by Rep. Swinford that is structured to run more federal money and power through the Governor's office, which Swinford claims is required by federal statute. Grits has more, including some stats that Rep. Noriega plans to distro on the floor.

    Grits was widely cited on other blogs for his post on Swinford pandering to the Governor and a deal he struck with Congressman Culberson that may or may not even pan out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Parks up for debate today

About five or six weeks ago, I asked the question: Are the parks bills on the move or not? The answer is that one finally is. (Editor's note: follow the link for more background on the bills)

HB 12 is the omnibus parks bill that combines the two other parks bills in Calendars, and it is up today on the Major State Calendar. Rep. Hilderbran has cut the number of sites to be transferred from 21 down to 18, but much of the rest of the parks transfer to the Texas Historical Commission remains the same.

There will be a number of amendments up today, but the future of the bill remains to be seen: there is question as to whether opponents of HB 7 (basically anyone not on the Speaker's agenda -- the main mover and shaker behind the transfer idea) will try to pull the bill down (since HB 6 is in Calendars) or try to cut HB 7 out of the bill (or maybe just replace it with an interim study, a move that was tried in committee).

There's one provision that expands inmate labor for park maintenance that will be fought against hard, and leadership may actually relent on this one since they were hoping it'd just fly under the radar. But if provisions like are removed, it could be hard to pull the entire bill down.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Proof of Citizenship...compromise?

Today, the impeccable Phil King offered up a substitute for the Proof of Citizenship bill, HB 626, which would water down much of the rhetoric we heard last week on the floor. Instead of spending $220 for fresh copies of naturalization papers, the bill would now simply make the Secretary of State vet birth certificates and naturalization papers when cross-checking voter registration applications with social security and drivers license records.

BurkaBlog reported on it this morning, and Kuff picked it up as well. Whether Anchia, Gallego, and Hochberg sign off on it or not wouldn't change the fact that if the Secretary of State can't find the naturalization papers, then s/he wouldn't approve the registration, hence the application is dropped. From how I'm reading it, it's not much of a compromise since it doesn't change much of what King asked for in the version he laid out last week.