Friday, April 13, 2007

Whitmire blasts Patrick in Senate debate

First, the links: Off the Kuff, In the Pink Texas, Postcards from the Lege, Texas Politics, PinkDome's picture, Capitol Letters, and DMN Editorial Board Blog

I won't try to repackage everything these blogs say, so I'll give a 10 second summary of what happened in the Senate yesterday in the spirit of the 7 minute Sopranos.

A man from Houston gets his own radio show, then gets neutered. The citizens elect him to serve the people of Texas. He harasses another man from Houston who just returned from a liver transplant. His best friend, also from Houston, gets mad.

A day late and a dollar short, the man wants $3 billion cut from a budget that's already been debated. He only plans on sharing his cuts with the media, but not with any lawmakers who have the power to change anything. The best friend Houston man stands up.

Whitmire: "It's your time to show this body that you know what you're talking about."

Patrick: "I don't have to be lectured by you."

Whitmire: "You can dish it out but you can't take it. You lectured the man his first day back. Get started. Go tell us how you're going to cut the $3 billion."

The conclusion came after neutered man reads a list of state agencies and declared he has the power to vote on the budget, insinuating he favors his standing in the press to his position as public servant. Moments later, the budget passes by 26-5. Man gets ridiculed in several blogs.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Updates on HB 855

I'm writing this one myself..

HB 855 would require citizens to identify themselves upon request by the police. Currently, you are supposed to produce an id card when asked to do so; however, police are not allowed to arrest you. HB 855 would have let them.

However, HB 855 was just voted down 23 (ayes) to 116 (nays).

Much was said about this: Rep. Coleman once refused to identify himself during a television interview and was told by a Houston County sheriff that he could be arrested; Rep. Dutton said that it could lead to the police going door to door asking for id; Rep. Dukes had a nephew who was arrested for driving a Corvette through East Austin.

Allegations of racially selective times that HB 855 would be used by the local police led to the defeat of the bill.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tom Delay bill quietly passes

this post has been deleted. see comments

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuition Dereg debated today

Starting at 7am, the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education has again revisited the merits of tuition deregulation, a 2003 plan that sought to raise public university funds without a penny more from the state by increasing tuition costs to students and parents at unforseen rates. Last session, Sen. Ellis tacked on an amendment that would've sunsetted tuition dereg by 2008 to a bill that would've improved accountability standards for universities with tuition deregulation. Geanie Morrison (Higher Ed chair in the House, author of tuition dereg, HB 3015, in 2003 and not an owner of a bachelor's degree) never gave it a hearing.

Tuition dereg, aside from increasing tuition, has negatively affected affordability and access at our state's colleges and universities. According to the Daily Texan, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates tuition has increased by 61 percent at state universities overall and 102 percent at UT since tuition deregulation.

Students and parents have had an increasingly hard time paying for tuition hikes since the higher rates and the reluctance on the part of the Legislature to pay for these increases have led to less people receiving TEXAS Grants, the most popular state grant program. Additionally, the inability to predict tuition rates several years down the road has closed the rolls of the Texas Tomorrow Fund since 2003, though Ray Perryman now contests this decision. These are the programs that low and middle income students rely on the most for paying for the increases.

Funny enough, in today's meeting Sen. Williams called tuition hikes "like crack for universities". Williams understated the comparison: crack is a serious problem that destabilizes ghetto communities. Crack poses a lofty goal for the inhabitants: to let some people feel good and get high while bringing in money and resources. The problem is that it really doesn't bring in new money, and it pits neighbor versus neighbor, friend versus friend.

At our universities, it's becoming increasingly hard to gain admission and to stay enrolled (retention) from tightened admission standards and higher tuition rates. Not to mention that it really doesn't bring in all that much new money. For example, tuition has risen 102 percent at UT-Austin. Students feel more of the consequences from higher tuition than its benefits. Right after tuition dereg passed, libraries at the university declared they'd no longer stay open 24 hours a day and 150 staff members would be fired.

Administrators carried out these austerity measures for the same reasons that they raised tuition; yet these university services have not been restored and there is currently no plan to do so. Less and less money is spent on student services even though "flexible tuition" has only gone up.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

On electricity debates and Robert Talton

Last week, I was pretty disappointed all around during the debates on SB 482 and 483. The background story, in case you've been living under a rock, is that TXU has had some high rates, Sen. Fraser got mad and passed these bills out quickly, and now Wednesday was King's turn. All King really had to do was pass them out unchanged, and any flak from KKR lobbyists could be directed at Fraser.

But that's just not King's way. He wants anything he carries to be tailored to the industry because, after all he did say in committee, that he wants to be "holding hands" with them again. Look, please do that on your own time.

I'm sour because the debate over two good bills boiled down to politics as usual, with Rep. Turner making some impassioned speeches and King espousing his hatred of socialists. Rep. Oliveira carried a weak amendment that everyone and their mother signed on to; many D's did so in order to get their own amendments tacked on later in the debate.

Enter Rep. Turner. He gets up to oppose this amendment to correctly state that it would do nothing. Seemingly, it would provide PUC with the authority to review the price of electric rates and reduce it accordingly. Well, it would with the exception of one word: may. Without a shall or must, the PUC will sit on its hands, which is how King wants it.

Enter Robert Talton. Not that he had anything intelligent to add to the conversation (though I'm sure we would've liked to take a swipe at socialists), just another point of order. I understand his reasons for doing so: he probably doesn't like the bills or even the concept of slightest regulation of energy rates, and raising these points of order may be with the intention to drive a wedge between Turner and the Speaker. OK, I get that. Turner is increasingly alienated from the Speaker with each point of order.

What I don't understand is why Craddick upholding these. Obviously, Craddick and Talton agree on many issues ideologically, but Craddick also understands the political consequences of doing so. I'll speculate to say that this session may turn out to be a do-nothing session (well, not to slight the Senate but....) Turner isn't going to stand by the Speaker for too much longer if every bill (minus the slight expansion of CHIP) or issue he cares about gets swept away. There's a chance that he'll go wingnut, since he's getting no love from the Speaker nor from non-Craddick D's, and he may start killing debates as well.

I guess there are worse sessions to be do-nothing sessions, but there's still some pretty big issues on the table: TYC still ain't over; TXU does need some real, not perceived, oversight; TTC is still threatening rural Texans. Get those taken care of, then you can hold hands with KKR lobbyists all you want.