Archive | May, 2009

Desperate Cries for Help Your Faithful Correspondent in the News

Sunday morning’s “Session ’09: In Depth” political roundtable discussion on KXAN in Austin featured Texas Weekly‘s Ross Ramsey, Republican consultant Robert Black, and me. In a nutshell, we agreed in a very polite way, full of sweetness and light and many smiles, that tempers and lack of sleep dictate that everybody in the Capitol now hates each other’s guts. In other words, same as usual.

And speaking of working with Republicans (or against ’em – it’s a fine line), don’t forget that Monday at high noon, the Letters From Texas Cross-Partisan Best Legislators List will be posted. Republican Ted Delisi will rate Democratic legislators, and I will rate Republican legislators.

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Texas Legislators: you are not alone in your misery

Texas lawmakers who are working night after night with little sleep, trying to wrap up the legislative session, can take heart – other states’ legislatures are similarly working hard on The People’s business.

Case in point: in the final days of their own legislative session, the Illinois state legislature is feverishly trying to close out deliberations on the most important issues in their state. Namely, the budget, ethics reform, and bowling shoe safety.

It is rumored that legislators are split 7-10 on the issue. And I apologize.

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Ten Best Legislators List: Crossing Party Lines

If a certain monthly travel magazine can rate legislators, so can we. But our list has a twist, and while we can co-exist, we want an assist. Some of you will be pissed.

Here’s the deal: Republican consultant Ted Delisi and I are regular contributors on KXAN’s Sunday morning political show, “Session ’09: In Depth.” Since that partnership hasn’t seemed to result in any serious injuries so far, we thought another joint venture might be in order. Ted and I are going to work on a “ten best legislators” list together.

Here’s the catch: Ted, a Republican, has to pick 5 Democrats, and I, a Democrat, have to pick 5 Republicans. We will undoubtedly both have a tough time picking 5 of the opposite party we think are worth a damn.

We’ll post our results here next week. But today belongs to you. Lobby us in the comments section on who you think deserves a little cross-partisan lurve.

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FUBAR-Cam Update: Capitol evacuation possible due to dangerous disturbance in the space-time continuum

Capitol-watchers were disturbed and confused last night when it became apparent that even though it was 11:58 p.m. in the East side of the Capitol, it was simultaneously 2 a.m. on the West side of the Capitol.

Those in proximity to the House chamber noticed nothing amiss. However, those observing the Texas Senate noted that several Senators seemed to appear to be getting younger. Witnesses were primarily going by the behavior of the Senators working on the floor.

Dr. Albert Einstein was unavailable for comment.

The following two pictures taken of action in the House and Senate chambers were taken at the same time, only moments ago.

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Republicans challenged to a Deuell

Conservative Republican state Senator Bob Deuell said something that raised eyebrows on the floor of the Texas Senate yesterday. After losing Republican votes for a measure he supports to provide for a needle exchange program for drug addicts, thus saving lives, his amendment was stripped from the bill. His reaction:

I think it’s time, especially for you Republicans, that if we’re to remain a viable party, we need to start looking at medical facts and dealing with reality and not dealing with black helicopters and other myths that are out there by the right wing extremists.

Deuell’s frustration is not without merit on many issues. In this case, for the sake of those extremists, people will die. And oh yeah, did I mention that Senator Deuell is also a medical doctor – the only one in the Senate?

It also works in public education: when Republicans support extremists for positions of authority who pretend that creationism has any basis whatsoever in science, children don’t get well-educated.

It also works in public health: when Republicans fail to support CHIP expansion, or eliminating waiting lists for Texans with disabilities, or expanding Medicaid eligibility, all for the sake of fighting “big government” on behalf of extremists, people suffer, people get sick, and people die.

I could go on and on, on policy position after policy position, in almost the entirety of government functions.

Senator Deuell’s frustration yesterday provides a rare glimpse into Republican fears that Texans are noticing what is being done, and not done, in their names. But it’s not for average ordinary Texas families that these public policy priorities are pursued, but rather for a couple hundred thousand faithful Republican primary voters’ whims.

We’re about to witness this partisan suicide attempt on a National level, with President Obama’s nomination of a Hispanic woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. Everybody in politics knows that conservatives would have strongly opposed whoever Obama picked – it’s their job. But since Obama picked a woman and a Hispanic, Republican U.S. Senators, in their never-ending efforts to suck up to the ever-shrinking Republican ultra-conservative base, are about to alienate women and Hispanics from coast-to-coast for the next few months.

The good news for everybody else: if Republicans keep representing only a few elite extremists, at the expense of the rest of us, their base will shrink so small that they won’t even be able to fill up that black helicopter with their supporters.

Senator Deuell’s Republican colleagues didn’t listen to him yesterday. Someday, they’ll wish they had.

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Madness as the session grinds down

Seeing as how I’ve been too busy to post, this might be a good time to mention that with the end of the legislative session will also come an emergence of Governor Rick Perry’s power, relative to that of legislators. Even though Texas is almost undoubtedly heading into a special session*, the Governor controls the agenda then, not legislators.

Believe what you want about Perry, but unlike other governors, at least he hasn’t gutted a freshly slaughtered seal, pulled out its raw heart, and eaten it. Yet.

*kind of interesting how I slipped that in there without explanation, ain’t it?

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Desperate Cries for Help Your Faithful Correspondent in the News

Sunday morning’s voter I.D. debate on KXAN’s “Session ’09” between Ted Delisi and me, with Jenny Hoff as referee, was lively. Viewers were stunned to see that the two of us disagree. Here’s the video.

Also, be sure to post your suggested caption for the closing freeze frame of Jenny Hoff in the comments section.

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Kuempel vastly improved, but in surprising twist, remaining 149 House members slip into coma

While news organizations continue to report steady and welcome improvement in State Representative Edmond Kuempel’s condition following a heart attack suffered while in the Capitol last week, the online political publication Quorum Report additionally reports that doctors canceled their plans to perform an MRI on the lawmaker, because there seems to be a BB lodged behind his ear.

Investigators are said to be doing a ballistics test on a BB gun owned by former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

“He had motive. He had opportunity. You figure it out,” said one DPS investigator, on the condition that he immediately be placed in the witness protection program.

Craddick’s legal team immediately sprang into action, proffering the defense that if Craddick had anything to do with it, it was only because the former speaker was in a helicopter, and believed Kuempel was a feral hog.

In a related twist, even as Kuempel continued to improve and has now fully emerged from a medically-induced coma, the other 149 House members seem to have now slipped into one.

And aside from the BB and Kuempel’s welcome improvement, not a word of this dispatch is true, except for a very sincere Get Well Soon to Chairman Kuempel from Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters!

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San Angelo political update, not that there’s anything wrong with that

Lets see if I can get this out without stuttering. To paraphrase the classic Mel Brooks comedy movie Blazing Saddles:

The new mayor’s a qu….

I said, the new mayor’s a qu…

I SAID, the new mayor’s a QUITTER!

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Desperate Cries for Help Your Faithful Correspondent in the News

Regular News: The Dallas Morning News gave me a little love for a post on the blog.

Startling News: While they were at it, they compared me to Karl Rove.

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What R U doing? Can U come get me? I’m a legisl8tor. OMG! LOL!

Congratulations to State Representative and fellow Storyville fan Norma Chavez on her graduation from the University of Texas last weekend. I know she was proud to be on the list of graduates.

Sadly however, she does not appear to be on the El Paso County Sheriff’s list of elected officials who deputies are encouraged to drive home when drunk. And that, as anyone who has ever spent quality time in El Paso knows, is an important list to be on. Because, after all, what else is there to do in El Paso besides drink? Well, besides drink and that one other thing, but you know what I mean.

It seems that Chavez has requested an amendment to the El Paso County ethics bill that their delegation has been tussling over all session – that deputies be prohibited from driving elected officials home after said elected officials have been…well…”over-served,” as they say.

I actually think Norma has a point. Sheriff’s deputies shouldn’t be driving anybody, especially elected officials, when the elected officials are drunk. The reason I think this is because I think too highly of El Paso’s elected officials, and I’m guessing the deputies are themselves too drunk to drive.

What’s next – outlawing drunk texting for elected officials?

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Desperate Cries for Help Your Faithful Correspondent in the News

Here’s the tape from Sunday morning’s “Session ’09: In Depth” on KXAN, in which the apparent Republican position is that we shouldn’t expand health coverage for middle class Texas children, and that Shanda “Sex Toys” Perkins was qualified to be on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles after all. I’m guessing Ted Delisi might characterize it a tad differently. Best of luck, Ted.

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You people in Dallas/Fort Worth…

…need to mind your manners.

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Dear Texas House Members:

At the beginning of the legislative session, you promised your favorite constituents, or your favorite lobbyists, that there was a place for their great legislation. Today, it turns out you were right. Here’s the place.

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She stopped by, but didn’t have an appointment

Last week, attention here and elsewhere turned to Shanda Perkins, one of Governor Perry’s appointments to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Perkins’ claim to fame is that she contributed to a woman getting arrested for selling sex toys (courts later dismissed the charge, and overturned the state law it was based on). She’s also a Republican Party operative, most recently spotted handing out anonymous fliers attacking Kay Bailey Hutchison on behalf of Perry.

With those stellar qualifications, Perry appointed her to the board that decides whether people live or die, and whether people remain imprisoned or are set free. Perkins said it’s where her passion is. That, plus the $90,000 salary, I’m guessing. Did I mention that Perkins is unemployed?

They didn’t count on Senator John Whitmire.

Whitmire is the most senior member of the Texas Senate. As chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, other Senators of both political parties defer to his expertise on such matters. Whenever Dean Whitmire decides to act on something, he can be a one-man wrecking ball.

When Perkins’ nomination hit the Senate floor for confirmation Wednesday, Whitmire moved to sever it, then moved to recommit Perkins to the nominations committee, effectively killing the appointment. By the time Whitmire was done with her, all the Democrats and many of the Republicans – apparently including some who had voted for the nomination in committee – voted to help bust this appointment.

None of the above should be big news. The reason it is news is because yesterday, Perkins became the first gubernatorial nomination in decades to be busted on the Senate floor.

The Texas Constitution says that all key gubernatorial appointments must get Senate confirmation, then sets a high bar of support for it – a two-thirds vote. Yet, for years the Senate has been merely rubber-stamping governors’ appointments. These appointees run state government on a day-to-day basis.

That Perry thought he could appoint someone to a highly-paid position who has absolutely no qualifications for the job isn’t Perry’s fault, in light of the fact that nobody can remember an appointment being busted on the Senate floor for the last 25 18 years. Legislators, through their inaction, have been signaling to a generation of governors that they can do anything they want on this front.

Legislators are prone to calling in state agency heads and grilling them on the mis-deeds of their agency. Many times, those agency executives are the same people who were appointed by the Governor and confirmed by those same legislators, with little oversight or due diligence during that important hiring process. Then those same legislators are shocked – SHOCKED – when the result is mismanagement at the agency, or when the agency doesn’t have the best interest of Texans as its highest priority. The same legislators might put a moment of thought into whether they had the best interest of Texans in mind when they opted not to make confirming those appointments a priority in the first place.

The Senate acted yesterday in a way which should make all Texans proud, Republicans and Democrats alike. Please take a moment to thank them, and ask for more of the same.

I’ll start: on behalf of those who believe that the criminal justice system plays the key role in keeping folks safe, who believe it’s crucial that dangerous people not be set free prematurely, who believe it’s a moral imperative that those who serve their time and who are not a continuing danger to society not be imprisoned longer, and who believe that those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned are worth fighting for – thank you John Whitmire.

And oh yeah, also spend a few minutes today photoshopping the picture of Perkins. You know you wanna.

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